Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Virtual Pedigree Pre-release or Elastic Paper

I have been looking at some of the programs under development by the Brigham Young University (BYU) Family History Technology Lab. One of the most interesting and obviously useful programs is called "elastic paper" or more formally, "Virtual Pedigree Pre-release." Here is a YouTube video with a demo of the program:

From the website, the program is described as follows:
Virtual Pedigree is a dynamic interface that allows a genealogist to see a pedigree chart in a smooth and dynamic way. Instead of each person in the chart being statically placed on the screen, their position is adjusted to make room for ancestors coming into the screen from the right. This enables a quick and seamless traversal of the chart. 
Virtual Pedigree also uses animation to find and display individuals anywhere in the chart, preserving context for the user while searching their entire ancestral data. 
The development of Virtual Pedigree has also extended beyond viewing ancestral data. Dynamic Descendancy is an extension to Virtual Pedigree that allows a similar seamless view of descendancy data. 
The aim of the Virtual Pedigree project is to enable genealogists to scan, search, and discover their ancestral data in a way never done before. By removing contextual switches with the seamless transition the genealogists can better understand their data. There are more features to come that will further enable genealogists in their work. Some of those features are dynamic content zoom (where a person in the center of the screen has more data showing than people around the edges), integration with Google maps, and others.
The inclusion of descendants in the elastic paper chart is an extremely valuable aid to research. My wife and I had an extended demo of the program the other day and it would dramatically improve the user experience of all of the major online family tree hosting programs. Considering's emphasis on researching cousins, this program would be a particularly valuable add-on. I guess I see this as a puzzle as to why, at least, has not taken advantage of this clearly superior technology considering it is being developed in their own backyard by BYU.

One major program that would benefit from this technology is Their family tree interface could use improvement. Presently, it is difficult to visualize relationships and for large pedigrees, becomes almost unmanageable. I view this as the weakest feature of the present program. In every case, this "elastic paper" view could, at least, be an alternative to the present views in the online programs. I think they would ultimately find this type of view to be the most popular, especially for tablets and smartphones.

Here is another short video on the project:

Can a bunch of undergraduate computer science students contribute to the world of high powered, high funded programming? I would think so from these examples.

1 comment:

  1. James,

    I want to let you know that three of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!