Development Roadmap

This page provides a high-level overview of some of the directions in which we want to push development in future. We are very interested in hearing from people who are interested in contributing to any of the ideas below - if you are, please join the friendly glue-viz-dev list and let us know!

There are many more ways you can contribute to glue that are not mentioned below - these are just the tip of the iceberg, but are here to give you an idea of places you might be able to contribute. You can also search the issue tracker on glue for all issues related to enhancements for example.

Support for big/complex data: an abstract data and computation interface

Glue currently provides ways of importing data from different sources, but ultimately, the data is essentially loaded in memory. In principle, the Data class can be subclassed in order to provide for example a object where data is only accessed on-the-fly as needed (in fact, this also happens if a memory-mapped Numpy array is passed to Data). Computations such as calculating histograms or selections is left up to the rest of the glue, and viewers are responsible for figuring out which subsets of data to access, if needed, and how to stride over the data when only a subset is needed. In addition, a lot of the glue code assumes regularly gridded datasets - which makes it difficult to apply to e.g. simulations with adaptive grids.

It would be nice to have a much better separation between data representation/access/computation and the rest of the interactive glue environment, including the viewers. The idea would be to develop an abstract base class for data objects which defines ways to access the data values and subsets, including for example ways of computing fixed resolution buffers for both the data and subsets. The Data object would be responsible for storing the data as well as information about the subsets in that dataset, in an efficient way. In fact, glue could then function entirely in world coordinates and not even have to worry about the concept of ‘pixels’ in the data.

A consequence of this is that image viewers for example would simply request fixed resolution buffers at the screen resolution, for both data and subsets, and would then be able to display them. Behind the scenes, the user could be using e.g. a package such as yt to access a 3Tb simulation file with adaptive/nested grids, but this would be seamless to the user (except of course that the speed would be limited by the computational requirements of the data object).

In fact, we could even provide a way to transfer API calls to this standard Data API over the network, which would open up the possibility of using glue to explore datasets hosted on computer clusters. Of course, there would be some network latency during operations, but some latency would be expected anyway for very large datasets, which would still benefit hugely from this.

Things that would need to be done in order to achieve this:

  1. Define what belongs inside the Data abstraction and what doesn’t
  2. Define an API for data/subset access and computations
  3. Refactor glue to use this data access API with the built-in Data objects.
  4. Develop new data objects based e.g. on yt
  5. Develop a way for the data API calls to be passed over the network

Related GitHub issues: #708

Support for big data: more efficient viewers

Matplotlib and VisPy both start becoming slow when the limit of a million points/markers is reached. This severely limits the size of the largest datasets that can be visualized in the scatter plot viewers, because the visualization will be slow even if the data contains only two components of a million elements each. In addition to large tables, this can easily happen if the user makes a scatter plot of one image versus another.

We therefore need to work on more efficient ways to show scatter plot data. In particular, we could explore methods that rasterize the points extremely efficiently, or methods that sub-sample the points in smart ways (for example, neighbouring points could be replaced by a slightly larger point).

Related GitHub issues: #722

Glue in the browser

It is currently already possible to launch glue from an IPython/Jupyter notebook and access the data and viewers using the returned application object. However, the next step would be to implement actual viewers that are not based on Qt, but instead can be used inside the notebook directly. One promising avenue would be to explore the use of bokeh.

The glue code base is designed so that the core representation of data objects, subsets, and so on in glue.core is completely independent of the visualization framework. Therefore, this would just require developing new viewers, not re-writing large sections of already existing code.

Related GitHub issues: #801