MIT News recently wrote about how new and easier ways to perform data analytics, including using touch screens and user-friendly interfaces, are enabling everyone to make smarter decisions and “tackle real-world issues.” Indeed, today’s citizen data scientists—the so-called non-specialists—are playing increasingly important roles at companies of all types with visual analytics solutions playing a big part.

But why is that?

Today’s citizen data scientists are not only unleashing the power of machine learning and predictive analytics into new parts of the business, but they are also helping drive company-wide adoption and communicate the benefits of data science—more than traditional data scientists. This is due to better soft skills, including communications and the ability to lead and influence others, that are often found in citizen data scientists.

Now, here’s where researchers from MIT and Brown University come into the story. They believed that the touchscreen combined with the ability to perform “drag-and-drop” visual analytics was the answer to increasing the adoption of data science. As a result, they set out to develop a solution, called North Star, where “users feed the system datasets, and manipulate, combine, and extract features on a user-friendly interface, using their fingers or a digital pen, to uncover trends and patterns.”

What’s Next?

The team recently released a paper on its new “virtual data assistant” that uses a white board with intuitively easy ways to use machine learning and run predictive analytics on data sets. See below:

visual analytics

“Even a coffee shop owner who doesn’t know data science should be able to predict their sales over the next few weeks to figure out how much coffee to buy,” says co-author and long-time Northstar project lead Tim Kraska, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and founding co-director of the new Data System and AI Lab (DSAIL). He went on to say, “In companies that have data scientists, there’s a lot of back and forth between data scientists and nonexperts, so we can also bring them into one room to do analytics together.”

That’s pretty cool!

Are you tapping into the power of visual analytics at your company? Check out this recent APEX of Innovation post on the increasingly important role they’re playing at companies of all sizes.