Whilst prepping the slides for last week's Brighttalk 3D Dataviz Webinar (watch it now) I started to put together a taxonomy of 3D data visualisation.
The starting point is a 3D plot - we are plotting data against 3 axes, not 2.
There is then a big divide between an allocentric and an egocentric way of viewing the data. Allocentric means that your reference point is not you, it's something else. In egocentric you are the reference point. In practice this means that in an allocentric plot if you move the viewpoint it feels like its the data moving, not you; and in an egocentric plot if the viewpoint moves it feels like you're moving and the data is staying still. Since this latter is how the physical world works it's what our eyes and brains are used to, so we feel more at home, and we can maintain context and orientation as we move through the data. Tests we did a few years ago with Aston University compared allocentric and egocentric ways of exploring 3D data, and showed that generally performance was better for the egocentric view.
Within the allocentric branch the next divide is whether the plot is static (in which case I suppose you could argue it's neither allocentric or egocentric) - as you might get in say Excel, or whether you can rotate and zoom the plot (as in something like Matlab). Are there any further sub-divisions?
On the egocentric branch we think the divide between viewing the data on a 2D screen (as in "3D" computer games), and viewing it through a VR headset in "real" 3D is far more a case of how you view the data rather than in any fundamental change in how it is being plotted. To us the big benefit is going egocentric not allocentric, not going from 2D screen to 3D headset. In fact our experiences with Oculus DK1 and DK2 suggest that the 3D headset is actually a worse way of viewing data in many (most?) cases. Luckily Datascape will be agnostic between 2D and 3D displays once we release V2.1 - you'll be able to do both. 3D wall displays using head-tracking glasses are probably another example of a different view rather than a different method of plotting. But again are there other more useful/detailed distinctions that can be made?