HOWTO: Data Handling

When starting with pySPACE the first question, which often arises is: “What do I have to do to get my data in this framework and how can I get the right output?” The documentation on this issue is distributed and so we will give an overview with the needed links.

Internal data structures in pySPACE are defined in the resources package. Here, we distinguish between samples and datasets. Samples are grouped to datasets and datasets can be grouped to summaries.


Summaries are no defined data structure in pySPACE, because they are nothing more than the address to a folder name with one subfolder for each contained dataset (as depicted in The Data Directory (storage)).

Data Handling for Benchmarking Applications

The Summary

The easiest way of getting your data into pySPACE is to transform it to a summary. When using the in the installation process, an example summary will be saved on your hard disk.

For doing so, you first create a folder with the summary name in your storage folder.


A summary should only include datasets of the same kind (e.g., streaming data or feature vector data) and no mixing. Otherwise the processing will not be compatible.

The Dataset

As a next step you need at least one subfolder for the dataset you want to process with pySPACE. This folder then needs two components:

  • the data file(s),
  • and a file called metadata.yaml, which contains all meta information including the type and storage format of the data.

The loading procedure of datasets is defined in the dataset_defs. For reading new data, there are three main types of dataset definitions for:

The type name is in the metadata file is written with underscore and directly corresponds to the module name. The respective class name is the same but written in camel case notation and with Dataset added to the name. The first two types deliver samples of times series objects and the last one feature vector objects.

As a next step, you need to check, if your data format is supported by the corresponding dataset type. Therefore, you should check the respective documentation. All types support the csv format. For feature vector data, the arff format is supported, too. For streaming data BrainProducts eeg format, the EDF2 file format and the EEGLAB set format are supported. When processing streaming data with a node chain operation you will also need an additional windower file, specifying how the data stream is segmented into time series objects. This is documented in the respective source node. If your storage format is supported, you just have to add the used storage_format parameter into your meta data file, as documented in the dataset definition.

Case of not supported storage format

If your storage format is not supported, there are two possibilities. You can use an external tool, which converts your data to a compatible format, or you can integrate the code for loading your format into the dataset definition.

Defining New Types of Data

If you cannot use the existing data types, extra effort is needed and it is probably a good idea to search the discussion with the software developers.

A good example would be to integrate picture or video data into the framework. This data could be handled as feature vector or time series data, too, but a special format might be a better choice.

Data Handling for Direct Processing in Applications

For the application case, the aforementioned hard disc usage is infeasible and data needs to be directly forwarded to the node chain which shall process the data probably using launch_live. Therefore, an iterator is needed, which produces objects of pySPACE data_types. To achieve this the ExternalGeneratorSourceNode is used.

For demonstration purposes this functionality is implemented in the live tools. It contains a C++ based streaming software which can access EEG acquisition devices manufactured by BrainProducts (requires proprietary driver for Windows, see eegmanager tutorial). The data is sent via TCP/IP and can be unpacked and formatted accordingly by the client side. The received data is then handed over to the windower inside the LiveEegStreamManager. The created windows are then fed into the current node chain using the ExternalGeneratorSourceNode.

To have your own data processed in pySPACE live you have to replace the LiveEegStreamManager to fit to your custom protocol or medium, your raw-data gets transmitted over. Currently this involves replacing the use of this class by hand - but in future releases a modular architecture is intended when handling different kinds of live-data.