Combining Natural Language and Direct Manipulation for Human-Data Interaction through Visualizations

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Srinivasan, Arjun
Stasko, John T.
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Visualization is an indispensable tool for human-data interaction, enabling people to better understand their data, identify patterns, and discover insights. Interaction plays a critical role in data visualization tools as it allows users to express their data-related goals and questions to the system. Traditionally, interaction in visualization tools is facilitated predominantly via a keyboard and mouse, following the window-menu-icon-pointer (WIMP) metaphor and the direct manipulation paradigm. However, recent advances in hardware and input recognition technology present the opportunity to reimagine interaction and explore new user experiences grounded in naturalistic human ways of interacting with people and objects in the real world. This thesis explores the design of a novel class of multimodal data visualization interfaces that augment current interaction techniques in visualization systems with natural language. I start with an assessment of the role of natural language input in visualization tools, characterizing the goals it can help people accomplish. Subsequently, I describe the design and implementation of a series of multimodal visualization systems that combine natural language and direct manipulation. Through evaluations of these systems, I capture the strengths and challenges of multimodal visualization interfaces, and highlight how they accommodate varying user interaction patterns and preferences during visual analysis. Finally, to assist future research and development, I also contribute a toolkit to help designers/developers prototype natural language-based visualization systems.
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