Kai Lawonn


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Plots Made Quickly: An Efficient Approach for Generating Visualizations from Natural Language Queries
Henrik Voigt | Kai Lawonn | Sina Zarrieß
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

Generating visualizations from natural language queries is a useful extension to visualization libraries such as Vega-Lite. The goal of the NL2VIS task is to generate a valid Vega-Lite specification from a data frame and a natural language query as input, which can then be rendered as a visualization. To enable real-time interaction with the data, small model sizes and fast inferences are required. Previous work has introduced custom neural network solutions with custom visualization specifications and has not systematically tested pre-trained LMs to solve this problem. In this work, we opt for a more generic approach that (i) evaluates pre-trained LMs of different sizes and (ii) uses string encodings of data frames and visualization specifications instead of custom specifications. In our experiments, we show that these representations, in combination with pre-trained LMs, scale better than current state-of-the-art models. In addition, the small and base versions of the T5 architecture achieve real-time interaction, while LLMs far exceed latency thresholds suitable for visual exploration tasks. In summary, our models generate visualization specifications in real-time on a CPU and establish a new state of the art on the NL2VIS benchmark nvBench.


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Paparazzi: A Deep Dive into the Capabilities of Language and Vision Models for Grounding Viewpoint Descriptions
Henrik Voigt | Jan Hombeck | Monique Meuschke | Kai Lawonn | Sina Zarrieß
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EACL 2023

Existing language and vision models achieve impressive performance in image-text understanding. Yet, it is an open question to what extent they can be used for language understanding in 3D environments and whether they implicitly acquire 3D object knowledge, e.g. about different views of an object. In this paper, we investigate whether a state-of-the-art language and vision model, CLIP, is able to ground perspective descriptions of a 3D object and identify canonical views of common objects based on text queries. We present an evaluation framework that uses a circling camera around a 3D object to generate images from different viewpoints and evaluate them in terms of their similarity to natural language descriptions. We find that a pre-trained CLIP model performs poorly on most canonical views and that fine-tuning using hard negative sampling and random contrasting yields good results even under conditions with little available training data.

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VIST5: An Adaptive, Retrieval-Augmented Language Model for Visualization-oriented Dialog
Henrik Voigt | Nuno Carvalhais | Monique Meuschke | Markus Reichstein | Sina Zarrie | Kai Lawonn
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

The advent of large language models has brought about new ways of interacting with data intuitively via natural language. In recent years, a variety of visualization systems have explored the use of natural language to create and modify visualizations through visualization-oriented dialog. However, the majority of these systems rely on tailored dialog agents to analyze domain-specific data and operate domain-specific visualization tools and libraries. This is a major challenge when trying to transfer functionalities between dialog interfaces of different visualization applications. To address this issue, we propose VIST5, a visualization-oriented dialog system that focuses on easy adaptability to an application domain as well as easy transferability of language-controllable visualization library functions between applications. Its architecture is based on a retrieval-augmented T5 language model that leverages few-shot learning capabilities to enable a rapid adaptation of the system.


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KeywordScape: Visual Document Exploration using Contextualized Keyword Embeddings
Henrik Voigt | Monique Meuschke | Sina Zarrieß | Kai Lawonn
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

Although contextualized word embeddings have led to great improvements in automatic language understanding, their potential for practical applications in document exploration and visualization has been little explored. Common visualization techniques used for, e.g., model analysis usually provide simple scatter plots of token-level embeddings that do not provide insight into their contextual use. In this work, we propose KeywordScape, a visual exploration tool that allows to overview, summarize, and explore the semantic content of documents based on their keywords. While existing keyword-based exploration tools assume that keywords have static meanings, our tool represents keywords in terms of their contextualized embeddings. Our application visualizes these embeddings in a semantic landscape that represents keywords as islands on a spherical map. This keeps keywords with similar context close to each other, allowing for a more precise search and comparison of documents.

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The Why and The How: A Survey on Natural Language Interaction in Visualization
Henrik Voigt | Ozge Alacam | Monique Meuschke | Kai Lawonn | Sina Zarrieß
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Natural language as a modality of interaction is becoming increasingly popular in the field of visualization. In addition to the popular query interfaces, other language-based interactions such as annotations, recommendations, explanations, or documentation experience growing interest. In this survey, we provide an overview of natural language-based interaction in the research area of visualization. We discuss a renowned taxonomy of visualization tasks and classify 119 related works to illustrate the state-of-the-art of how current natural language interfaces support their performance. We examine applied NLP methods and discuss human-machine dialogue structures with a focus on initiative, duration, and communicative functions in recent visualization-oriented dialogue interfaces. Based on this overview, we point out interesting areas for the future application of NLP methods in the field of visualization.


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Challenges in Designing Natural Language Interfaces for Complex Visual Models
Henrik Voigt | Monique Meuschke | Kai Lawonn | Sina Zarrieß
Proceedings of the First Workshop on Bridging Human–Computer Interaction and Natural Language Processing

Intuitive interaction with visual models becomes an increasingly important task in the field of Visualization (VIS) and verbal interaction represents a significant aspect of it. Vice versa, modeling verbal interaction in visual environments is a major trend in ongoing research in NLP. To date, research on Language & Vision, however, mostly happens at the intersection of NLP and Computer Vision (CV), and much less at the intersection of NLP and Visualization, which is an important area in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). This paper presents a brief survey of recent work on interactive tasks and set-ups in NLP and Visualization. We discuss the respective methods, show interesting gaps, and conclude by suggesting neural, visually grounded dialogue modeling as a promising potential for NLIs for visual models.