Chronology - William Playfair

The Future of Data Visualization

The Future of Data Visualization, our dashboard 2D graphs aren’t cutting it anymore. When it comes to data visualisation, we are used to seeing bar charts, pie charts, line graphs and all the types of widget visuals we see on a everyday dashboards.

Bar Chart
Example bar chart

These types of graphs are generally attributed to a Scottish Engineer in the 18th century called William Playfair some 200 years ago.

Bar chart by William Playfair - Source Wikipedia
Bar chart by William Playfair – Source Wikipedia

Back then, data was displayed in table formats, but William argued that his visual charts communicated data a lot better. 

William Playfair
William Playfair – 18th Century

Even with William’s future thinking, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the world saw the future potential in graphics. Therefore, began the first ever course in graphing data at Iowa University in 1913. 

Over the last 200 years, these visualizations have been used time and time again. While there has been some advancements to data visualization, typical we still use these types of graphs above all others.

Linear Chronology, Exhibiting the Revenues, Expenditure, Debt, Price of Stocks & Bread, from 1770 to 1824.”
Linear Chronology, Exhibiting the Revenues, Expenditure, Debt, Price of Stocks & Bread, from 1770 to 1824.” Source: Princeton University

Now, when it come to data we are generating huge amounts of it. Data that was in past not typically recorded easily, is now, thanks to technology being recorded automatically. For example location data. To record it in the past you’d have to follow someone around and jot down in a notebook each stop they made.

Exponential growth of data

According to IDC, the amount of data being created is forecasted to reach a staggering 163 Zettabytes (which 163 trillion gigabytes) in 2025. That is ten times the amount of data generated in 2016.

To put that into perspective, imagine that 1Gb is equal to a meter. To get to 163 trillion, you’d be able to wrap that amount of data around the world over 4000 times.

So, how do we take all this additional data that wasn’t available back in William’s day and present it to users, in ways that are suitable to its complexity?


Generally, when we think of data visualization we tend to think of dashboards filled with graphs, circles, bar charts and moving trend graphs.

Our screens are filled with little widgets that often tell us information we already know, or simply don’t do the data justice. Complexity leads to numerous visualizations that communicate different parts of the picture.

As a general user of data, we move from dashboard to dashboard, to try and build a picture of what is going on. When we have a question that doesn’t have a dashboard display item, you have to ask a data engineer to add a graphic for your question. This process could take weeks maybe months to get that change.

Modern day natural language querying has started to appear in some business intelligence tools, but they have limitations, and are for more experienced users.

Missing Data

As we generate more data, our dashboard 2D visualizations aren’t cutting it anymore. 2D is not equip with the ability to visualize large volumes of data. Therefore, we are often missing data that tells us the full story.

Meanwhile, limited monitor space, means flipping through multiple dashboards and windows. All the while analysing the links between the data as you create your holistic understanding. This is time consuming and gets annoying.

A few years ago we at Slanted Theory set out to reimagine how to analyse data in a visual way. Using immersive and interactive 3D visualizations. We built ALAIRA as a 3D visual based data discovery tool.

ALAIRA 3D Data Globe
ALAIRA – Public Data Globe containing multiple datasets

Using immersive technology and 3D visualizations, we quickly realised that we could display multiple data sets in one go, giving users the ability to see more data that would assist in making more informed decisions. So we created a universe for interactive data exploration, bringing together people from across the world to explore their data in real time together.

The future of data visualization is 3D. ALAIRA has massive potential for innovative businesses to gain greater insights into their data, quickly recognise trends and make informed business actions as a result. We love to talk about and show-off our tech so please drop us a line for a free demo!