Microsoft Pivot brings data to life

Microsoft's Live Labs division, which is a bit like the mad professor's lair from a 50s B movie as far as we can tell, has come up with an intriguing application which takes the traditional ways in which we view information and adds a Minority Report-inspired twist or three.

Pivot, according to Microsoft is "an experimental technology that allows people to visualise data and then sort, organise and categorise it dynamically. The result is that correlations, exceptions and trends become immediately apparent in ways they can’t when information is stuck in rows and columns."

Basically, it takes the information you might traditionally find in a boring Excel spreadsheet, adds some impressively whizzy graphics transitions, and makes your data fly about on the screen like a flock of startled starlings.

The application obviously relies on data being represented in a visual way, so don't expect your accountant to be presenting your tax returns using Pivot, but if you have a collection of items with photographic references and attached data, you can mine and manipulate that data in a very effective and visually exciting way.

“With Pivot you can swim through the data, taking little twists and turns,” enthuses Microsoft boffin Gary Flake says. "If you are looking at all the information at once, the proverbial forest, you can click on any one item or filter and smoothly zoom into the trees without any interruption."

We think Pivot looks fantastic in the demo video but we also think the amount of work which will go into creating data sets which the software can take full advantage of will outweigh the 'ooh' factor for most.

Nice idea, though.