Fuzzy Spreadsheet: Understanding and Exploring Uncertainties in Tabular Calculations

Fuzzy Spreadsheets Teaser

Abstract

Spreadsheet-based tools provide a simple yet effective way of calculating values, which makes them the number-one choice for building and formalizing simple models for budget planning and many other applications. A cell in a spreadsheet holds one specific value and gives a discrete, overprecise view of the underlying model. Therefore, spreadsheets are of limited use when investigating the immanent uncertainties of such models and answering what-if questions. Existing extensions typically require a complex modelling process that cannot be smoothly embedded in a tabular layout. In Fuzzy Spreadsheet, a cell can hold and display a distribution of values. This integrated uncertainty handling immediately conveys sensitivity and robustness information. The fuzzification of the cells enables calculations not only with precise values but with distributions, and probabilities. We conservatively added and carefully crafted visuals to maintain the look and feel of traditional spreadsheet while facilitating what-if analyses. Given a user-specified reference cell, Fuzzy Spreadsheet automatically extracts and visualizes contextually relevant information, such as impact, uncertainty, and degree of neighborhood, for the selected and related cells. To evaluate its usability and the perceived mental effort required, we conducted a user study. The results show that our approach outperforms traditional spreadsheets in terms of answer correctness, response time, and perceived mental effort for almost all tasks tested.

Citation

BibTeX

@article{2020_preprint_fuzzy-spreadsheets,
    title = {Fuzzy Spreadsheet: Understanding and Exploring Uncertainties in Tabular Calculations},
    author = {Vaishali Dhanoa and Conny Walchshofer and Andreas Hinterreiter and Eduard Groeller and Marc Streit},
    journal = {Preprint},
    url = {https://osf.io/j5g4b},
    year = {2020}
}

Acknowledgements

This work was supported in part by the FFG, Contract No. 854184: “Pro2Future” is funded within the Austrian COMET Program Competence Centers for Excellent Technologies under the auspices of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs and of the Provinces of Upper Austria and Styria. COMET is managed by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG.