There is a data visualization instrument in Santa Barbara, California that will knock your socks off, knock you down with a feather and might just render you speechless.

Envision if you will, all of your data. All of your transactional data, clickstream data, ad response data, keyword performance data, CRM data… just all of it. Hard to picture it all? 

The AlloSphere at UCSB

Perhaps you need an AlloSphere.

I first heard of the AlloSphere in a very brief mention in Wired Magazine. I was gobsmacked to discover it was right down the road from my office, tucked into the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara, which used to be the party school back before I matriculated. 

After spending six minutes watching Dr. Joann Kuchera-Morin describe it at a TED conference, I was on a mission. I had to see if this thing were as mind-blastingly cool as I hoped. It was.

Dr. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin is a scientist/artist/inventor/visionary. She is also warm, funny, engaged and loves to watch other people’s eyes light up. She occupies a small, academic office with her able assistant Carole in a very modern building at my alma mater. 

Down the hall, around the corner and through an air-lock portal that blocks outside light and sound, is JoAnn’s “instrument.” The official description goes like this:

The AlloSphere, a 30-foot diameter sphere built inside a 3-story near-to-anechoic (echo free) cube, allows for synthesis, manipulation, exploration and analysis of large-scale data sets in an environment that can simulate virtually real sensorial perception. It is a physical place designed to facilitate creativity and incubate ideas via collaboration. 

After running me through a demo, JoAnn asked what I thought. I had two thoughts. The first was that 35 years ago, I had spent a fair amount of time and money and had risked imprisonment on that very campus sourcing illicit compounds that would allow me to see such things. Today, it was only a matter of donning the 3D glasses and the headphones and being blown away.

The second thought was that she had to come to the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and show an auditorium full of business data enthusiasts what she had. She agreed.

Her presentation floored the marketing optimization types but, as often happens at eMetrics, the fun part was the lobby bar.

JoAnn had arrived late the night before her presentation and, intending to carrying her store-bought salad up to her room for a midnight dinner, she allowed herself to be waylaid. I introduced her to the heads of analytics at Expedia and eBay.

Tears came to my eyes as they spent the better part of an hour drawing her out, sharing music allusions, quantum physics analogies and conjuring what might happen if they could visualize their own data in her playground.

The next morning, surprisingly refreshed, Dr. Kuchera-Morin performed her keynote address by ‘playing’ her instrument.

@tgwilson: AlloSphere Instrument. Very, very cool: translating “data” into visual/audio immersive sensory experience to enable understanding. #emetrics

@johnlovett: Watching art of the 22nd century at #eMetrics Amazing #alloSphere

@bobpage: 5 min into the AlloSphere talk and my mind is reeling. Researchers “performing data” #emetrics

@ivanbager I am blown away! So inspiring, enlightening and mind expanding! #eMetrics #allosphere

@patrickjwoods: Holy. Crap. The AlloSphere is blowing my mind #eMetrics

Call to Action:

If you have a large dataset… If you have a visual propensity… If you were born with the curiosity gene… I invite you to contact Dr. JoAnn Kuchera-Morin and get a couple of her Grad Students to translate your information into a landscape you can fly through.

And let me know – I would love to experience the results.