Scientific Data

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For this semester, we'll be focusing on finding and evaluating software for exploratory scientific visualization. The data types below can be used in your project and tutorials. Please add more data types and examples as you find them. Be sure to document any data you add to this page in your journal.

For an abbreviated list of common data types, a brief definition of each type, and recommended/feasible software to use with each type, please see the Software Recommendations by Data Type page.

Please note: many of the following files are very large (we're talking up to around a hundred MB for some of these)! Additionally, this page is a continual work in progress. The categories of data are not exhaustive and are listed in no partincular order, so be prepared for the page to be somewhat messy.

2D Image Data

Description: 2D array of data values that can be reduced to an RGB image before viewing or interactively during viewing.


3D Vector Field or Flow Data

Description: A magnitude and direction at each more in 3D space. Can be 3D flow. Can be time-varying.


  • Vibrating Cylinder Flow - George Karniadakis and Zhicheng Wang

    • Data

    • Contains 10 .plt files each of which contains 12 components of data:

      • (x, y, z) position coordinates

      • (u, v, w) velocity components in the x, y, z directions

      • p is pressure

      • vorticity_x, vorticity_y, vorticity_z

      • Divergence

      • Q, second invariant of the velocity gradient

Point Cloud Data

Description: data that represents a collection of points in 2D or 3D space.


  • las files: Lidar data comes comes in many forms, however, las files are one of the most popular Lidar data formats. An las file is a binary file which contains point cloud data, stored as X, Y, Z coordinates, and a header which contains file metadata, RGB information, GIS information, and many other optional fields. For more detailed information on las files, see the official las specification.

Point Cloud Visualization Software:

Point Cloud Processing Software:




(T) signifies whether a particular software package has been tested; ($) signifies license required.

Planetary Geology Imaging Data

Description: This might be an amalgam of different data types, including collections of stars, collections of galaxies, outward-looking imagery (as from a telescope), or inward looking imagery (as from a satellite of a planet). Some such data is 2D imaging data, but with a particular underlying space, e.g., Earth, the moon, or Mars.


  • NASA Global Imagery Browser Services (GIBS):

    • GIBS is a database of satellite imagery data collected by NASA JPL; the database supports an extensive REST API, however, it can be somewhat complicated to use.

    • GIBS returns satellite data in the form of tiles or maps (in Mercator projection)

  • NASA Earthdata

    • Earthdata is a massive database of atmospheric, land, and ocean data operated by NASA


  • OpenSpace software views some kinds of data of these types, and it has the potential to generalize to more. It almost runs in the Yurt and does run on desktops and HMD's.

MRI Imaging Data

Description: MRI imaging data comes in many forms, often depending on the type of MRI machine utilized when scanning a patient. Two of the most common MRI data formats are NIfTi and DICOM. Luckily, most MRI processing software can easily convert between these two formats, so we will focus on visualizing and processing only NIfTi files. For an in-depth comparison between NIfTi and DICOM, see Medical Imaging Formats.


  • Brain Tumor Segmentation Challenge (BRATS) - BRATS is a comprehensive MRI brain tumor data set comprised of 243 MRI scans, expertly labeled based on tumor pathology.

  • Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) - ADNI contains a collection of over 3000 MRI scans of Alzheimer's patients, captured over several years and with varying MRI scanners.

  • Note that both the BRATS and ADNI data sets are not public and must be requested.



Similar to:

  • CLARITY Brain Imaging

  • CT Brain imaging

Network Data


Polygonal Model Data

Description: 3D data stored as polygonal meshes

Found in many 3D file extensions that hold 3d data points: OBJ, DAE, FBX, etc

Programs that use and view polygonal model data that could be YURT usable:

  • Unity, Blender, Unreal, Paraview

Unlikely to be YURT usable:

  • Maya, Adobe Dimension


Time Series Data

Description: Series of data points indexed by time.


  • Human heart rate data - MIT

Genomics Data

Description: Data that captures various genetic information such as variances in genome sequences, DNA sequences, and other genetics information



Description: Output from cameras with proximity sensors contain an extra channel for depth. Its value ranges from 0-255 just like color. It is often visualized alone as grayscale.


GeoJSON Data

Description: Open standard format that outlines standards for using JSON file to represent geographical data.

Visualization Tools: VR-Viz