Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Computer Science


Computer Science


Zoe Wood


Interactive data visualizations must respond fluidly to user input to be effective, or so we assume. In fact it is unknown exactly how fast a visualization must run to present every facet within a dataset. An engineering team with limited resources is left with intuition and estimates to determine if their application performs sufficiently well.

This thesis studies how latency affects users' comprehension of data visualizations, specifically 3D geospatial visualizations with large data sets. Subjects used a climate visualization showing temperatures spanning from the 19th to the 21st century to answer multiple choice questions. Metrics like their eye movements, time per question, and test score were recorded. Unbeknownst to the participants the latency was toggled between questions, subjugating frame rendering times to intervals between 33 1/3 and 200 milliseconds.

Analysis of eye movements and question completion time and accuracy fail to show that latency has an impact on how users explore the visualization or comprehend the data presented. User fixation times on overlaid 2D visualization tools however are impacted by latency, although the fixation times do not significantly differ over 3D elements. The finding speaks to how resilient users are in navigating and understanding virtual 3D environments --- a conclusion supported by previous studies about video game latency.