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June 10, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

UTRF’s first Entrepreneurial Fellow is launching an AI platform to help visualize data

Tanner Hobson has developed a number of data visualization softwares over the years. VisualizAI will build on the foundation of previous models.

At the beginning of the year, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) named Tanner Hobson as the first Entrepreneurial Fellow. So far, he’s off to a great start in his new role.

Hobson has been tasked with creating a platform where people can easily access data and create visualizations. Right now, he’s calling it VisualizAI, and it’s intended to become a start-up that will provide Visualization-as-a-Service (VaaS).

Hobson explained the software as being a big data sheet that is constantly adding rows and columns. He would like to build VisualizAI out to the point where new information from various organizations, agencies, and data centers is being regularly and automatically entered.

From there, he employs artificial intelligence (AI) to crawl the software and display the data in a picturesque format. Hobson isn’t sure exactly what that will look like yet, but he anticipates the software will be able to at least generate bar, pie, and histogram graphs.

Hobson’s goal is to equip the software to create “more vibrant and informed communities.”

He participated in the spring Regional Mid-South Innovation Corps program and underwent a customer discovery process that steered him toward an unexpected target audience.

Hobson recognized a need for journalists, grant writers, and politicians to access VaaS software. These professions proved to be the most in need of fast, accurate data that is easy to understand.

Hobson’s background is in Computer Science and he’s no stranger to working with data visualization.

Over the six-year term of his Ph.D., Hobson developed Graph Shaders: a VaaS for graph rendering and processing by building on the OpenGL programmable pipeline and extending the OpenGL Shading Language to seamlessly support graph data.

He developed Braid: a VaaS for parallel flow visualization of 0.5° resolution global wind velocity data, designed to run on the public Amazon Web Services cloud, enabling dynamic horizontal scalability of the number of instances at runtime.

He also developed Alpaca: a VaaS for creating mixed-reality extensions for web applications making collaborative use of standard 2D and augmented reality 3D interfaces.

Developing new technology is part of the fabric of Hobson’s story. He can’t wait to do it again with VisualizAI.

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