Gapminder: An impressive tool for data visualization

A few days ago I ran across a really intriguing video showing researcher Hans Rosling introducing the new BBC documentary “The Joy of Stats”. Take a look below:

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The data visualization in this video was impressive enough that I had to find out more. That led me to a talk by Rosling at TED in 2006. This video is basically a longer version of the one in the youtube video. Again, impressive stuff. While he makes some compelling points, I’m not really qualified to judge the validity of all his arguments. What I was really struck with is the power and intuitive beauty of the software he used in the presentation.

I did some more research, and sure enough, Rosling actually founded the nonprofit software company responsible for the tool you see in the videos. It’s called Gapminder, and it’s available for free both as a browser-based (see below) and a desktop version. Needless to say, this is the kind of tool that a geek like me could get lost playing with for a couple of hours. It looks like something that would be a great tool for social studies teachers, students, or even public policy makers.

Interestingly, the major intellectual property and talent behind the product was purchased by Google in 2007, shortly after execs were introduced to Rosling and Gapminder (the software was apparently called Trendalyzer at the time).