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Collections: The Pivot Collection Tool for Excel lets users build their own data collections for Pivot without needing to understand XML.

Pivot can also be used to browse the Web and to view and organize Web pages. Flake says he foresees the Pivot interface being integrated with features such as search. Pivot might, he says, provide users a better way to sort through search results–instead of seeing the 10 top search results on a page, they could sort though thousands of results visually. “We are really taking a step back from the Web and trying to see it as a physical Web,” Flake says.

Pivot turned heads at TED. Roger McNamee, managing director and cofounder of the venture capital firm Elevation Partners, described the technology as “the brightest star” among a collection of impressive demos.

“Pivot’s clever user interface enables new forms of related and serendipitous search that I expect to transform the way I relate to the Web,” he says. “After several boring years, the ‘search wars’ may get interesting again.”

Martin Wattenberg, who developed the IBM data visualization program Many Eyes with his colleague Fernanda Viegas, says the Pivot team is tackling one of the big unsolved problems of dealing with modern data by building an interface that pulls together different types of media, including text and images.

Wattenberg says the goal is to provide more sophisticated mathematical techniques for sorting through data. “What is the standard deviation of a collection of images?” he says. “That question doesn’t even make sense.”

The key for all visualization tools, says Wattenberg, is to integrate them well with the rest of the Web. It would be useful to have open standards to let different software interoperate, he says, and to allow users to embed visualizations into their own Web pages. “We need to make visualization ubiquitous and seamless,” he says. “Like everything else in computing, we want to have it anytime, anywhere.”

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Credits: Microsoft Live Labs
Video by Microsoft Live Labs

Tagged: Computing, Web, analytics, user interfaces, data visualization, user-generated content

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