Knomos Does Justice to Machine Learning with Legal Visualization Tool
Hi. I’m Adam La France, CEO of Knomos. As a visual learner I’ve often struggled with “Law”, always wanting to better understand how this complex web of rules, concepts, and references all fit together. The sailor in me yearned for a nautical chart filled with colours, icons, and a sense of scale to help guide me through this highly organized, but too often confusing, sea of legal knowledge.
Like many law students, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information I was expected to master, and frustrated by the lack of tools to navigate and correlate all this new information. Unlike just about everyone else, I decided to do something about it. While studying for the bar in Quebec and articling at a business law firm, I reached out to Jesse Abney, an experienced video game producer.
Amazed by the state of legal innovation, we conceived an idea to transform the book-bound, text-based legal system by crafting a visual navigation experience that opens up the mysteries of law to all.
Our initial idea made it to the finals of the 2014 Dobson Cup, a start-up competition run by McGill University’s business management school.
We took the Civil Code of Québec, combined it with some compelling visuals from the extensive D3 data visualization library, and added our own design elements to present the Knomos proof-of-concept.
That experience provided us with the critical feedback and momentum to launch from an idea into a company and bring a next-generation knowledge management product to market.
It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.
The law is a complex network of facts, concepts, and precedents. And it’s evolving constantly. If you just look at it in a granular way, you can easily miss the relationships and emergent patterns as the law continues to change over time.
We’re embedding intuitive data visualization systems in to complex and dynamic legal processes, to reveal hidden insights to professionals and non-experts alike by representing big data in more intuitive formats like dashboards, heatmaps, and clusters.
When you apply machine learning and predictive analytics to legal content, you not only see patterns within the texts themselves but can also trace patterns in the metadata; to see which jurists and scholars are being cited most often, which arguments prevail in different types of cases, and the ebb and flow of leading ideas as the law evolves.
The human brain can process visual information 60,000 times faster than the time it takes to decode text. The human power of cognition is our natural super ability to recognize patterns using multiple visual cues (shape, size, colour, proximity, orientation) and rapidly process information to make better decisions faster than with text alone.
The limitations of traditional information architecture are surpassed by presenting an instant overview of relevant content, with direct access to detail on demand. Cartographic elements such as spatial orientation, a view-within-a-view, and symbols & legends are all used to ‘map’ uncharted relationships between legal sources. We can shift our concept of information from a thing, towards information as a place.
Rise Of The Networks
The utility of shared platforms will be increasingly be built on the connected knowledge of its users. It’s projected that in 2016 there will be 18.9 billion network connections, almost 2.5 connections per person on earth. Much like the last decade witnessed the rise of social networks, the next decade will be marked by the creation of robust knowledge networks.
Gaming the system
With nearly 20 years in the video game industry with Electronic Arts, Visceral Games, and Sony PlayStation, our team developed a keen sense for good User Experience (UX) designs. To make legal information more accessible to all people, we’re focused on a User Interface (UI) that’s intuitive and shifts the balance to visual perception to help relieve the cognitive load of processing what’s typically text-heavy information.
Knomos presents information as a map of related concepts at the highest level of law, with controls that allow people to zoom into detail, intuitively trace patterns across clusters, and personalize their view of the information around the sources and ideas of greatest interest.
To acclimate users to this new way of thinking about legal information, we’re importing successful learning strategies from the world of video game design in a similar fashion to how complex open-world games, like Halo or Skyrim design their UI to ‘train’ players through the early levels to master the game’s interface, so that in a very short time you feel proficient. You’re immersed in a rich and foreign world, but you can find your way around in it because you have adapted and are more capable to master advanced skills.
Knomos applies these same concepts to mastering the law.
In January 2015, Knomos was joined by another gaming industry veteran, Craig McInnes, who led a successful career launching and supporting one of the most robust multi-player platforms powering each of the Activision and Blizzard online franchises. Craig saw the obvious fit for his expertise and is bringing modern data design and online networked systems to law via databases that more efficiently interrelate all legal content.
This is bigger than the legal profession however. There’s a crisis right now in terms of citizens’ access to justice. Our goal is to deliver a unique knowledge management platform that empowers everyone to understand and act on their legal rights.