€6.5m EU funding towards tech that helps our brain understand big data

CEEDs is a large project with 16 partners in nine countries (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK) who are putting their heads together to optimise human understanding of big data. Indeed, the European Commission has recently called on national governments to wake-up to the big data revolution.

In response to this, some €6.5m of EU funding is being invested in this innovative initiative, under the Future and Emerging Technologies scheme.

Researchers within CEEDs are transposing big data into an interactive environment to allow the human mind to generate new ideas more efficiently. They have built what they are calling an eXperience Induction Machine (XIM) that uses virtual reality to enable a user to ‘step inside’ large datasets. 

This multi-modal environment – currently located at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona – also contains a panoply of sensors which allows the system to present the information in a tailored format to different users according to their reactions as they examine the data. These reactions, such as gestures, eye movements or even heart rate, are monitored by the system and used to adapt the way in which the data is presented.

Jonathan Freeman, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London and coordinator of CEEDs, explains: “The system acknowledges when participants are getting fatigued or overloaded with information. And it adapts accordingly. It either simplifies the visualisations so as to reduce the cognitive load, thus keeping the user less stressed and more able to focus. Or it will guide the person to areas of the data representation that are not as heavy in information.”

Neuroscientists were the first group the CEEDs researchers tried their machine on. It took the typically huge datasets generated in this scientific discipline and animated them with visual and sound displays. By providing subliminal clues, such as flashing arrows, the machine guided the neuroscientists to areas of the data that were potentially more interesting to each person. First pilots have already demonstrated the power of this approach in gaining new insights into the organisation of the brain.

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