Sunday, December 27, 2009

New(ish) Web-based Open Sim Viewer

Have just checked out the new 3Di Open Source web-based simulator viewer.

Bother is that they only have windows builds, due to the use of the Irrlicht games engine as underlying software. Works in Firefox and IE 7.0, and source has a BSD licence.

Looks good on the outside, will be testing and reporting on its usefulness as we play with its capabilities. Such web-based solutions can only help the business use of virtual worlds, as it opens up SAAS, web deliverable solutions. While I have commented about the need to also have dowloadable document-like worlds, there is nothing wrong with a slick well produced web-delivered piece of software.

BTW, a QUT graduate, Johan Berntsson is on the development team.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Virtual Worlds Shakeout

Forterra systems, a major player in the Virtual World space, is now having some troubles, layoffs included.

It has been commented by some that these companies burnt up loads of venture capital, and then proceeded to struggle, with their business models struggling in these times of economic difficulties.

For my two cents worth, this has been expected anyway. Second Life is still a major leader in this space (discounting the WoW and Eve online games and others), as it seems to have an economic critical mass to survive the effects of the GFC, for the moment.

So, what will be the business models of the future that will survive? Aside from pure business factors, my gut instinct tells me that maybe it is to do with the server client model and the clunky nature of some of the content creation tools. In my research, the first thing that tends to be shot back at me by skeptics (of my BPM VE ideas) is the level of work required to set these simulations up. Server systems are laggy, containing complex 3D interfaces that are clunky and hard to learn, and it all just seems too complex to engage with as a business person with little background in 3D environments or games.

My usual response back to these points are the following:

1. We need to create tools that work more like a word processor, and less like 3DS Max. People are used to word processing simple documents, not detailed work. Word processors years ago were beasts to use, drawn from document formatting systems like TeX. Now we routinely use word processors with much better interfaces, to easily create documents for our own business and personal needs.

2. We need to treat worlds as a document, not as a cloud service per se. Sure, run the world in a cloud when you need to, but allow the world to be down loadable for localised interaction and secure/lag free collaboration, just like I do with a word processed document when I work with my colleagues. This is that way we all tend to collaborate, at the moment.

3. We need to implement the levels of quality control that the games companies use. Remember, if the world stutters at all, then the immersive experience is broken, and will put people off using the environment. The iPhone is popular, in part, due to its smooth interface. People's aggression to software is roughly proportional to K x Lag in the user interface, where K is a very large integer.

Possibly, when the user experience of such tools is much better, we will see greater uptake of such systems, and a better business climate for them.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Visualisations of the Ultimate Processes

Fascinating video of the known universe available here. An amazing journey through a large and complex universal space, and a great visualisation by the American Museum of Natural History.

Viewing this video made me think of some of the older maps that had indistinct regions. Australia in such maps was often simply marked as "Terra Icognita"

I wonder if these universe maps will be looked at in the future, and considered just as inaccurate, and incomplete, and makes me think of what level of detail we will have in the future.

Simply put, this shows that any leading edge, large scale visualisation evolves over time, and will hopefully gain in accuracy. While this is a fairly obvious concept, one should always keep in mind that any visualisation or representation of data has inherent inaccuracies, whatever the underlying data.

It's Christmas Eve, I am now going to have a Scotch before I go to bed. :-)

Merry Xmas


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Tips on Process Dashboard Design

This post is an excerpt from a an article I read this morning at Visual Business Intelligence. Excerpt follows:

"A graphic optimally designed for running a process and handling abnormal conditions effectively will, in fact, look boring.

Effective monitoring displays don’t “Wow” people with immediate graphical appeal. People often look at my dashboard designs and think “Where are the colors and those cute gauges that I like so much?” Here are a few of the characteristics that are listed as effective for HMI displays:

  • Important information and Key Performance Indicators have embedded trends.
  • There is no gratuitous animation.
  • There is very limited use of color and alarm colors are used only to display alarms and nothing else…Bright, intense (saturated) color is used only for quickly drawing the operator’s attention to abnormal conditions and alarms. If the process is running correctly, the screen should display little to no color.
  • Equipment is depicted in a simple 2-D low-contrast manner, rather than brightly colored 3-D vessels with shadowing.
  • Layout is generally consistent with the operator’s mental model of the process."
I have to admit, the example he shows of a bad process dashboard is terrifying in its obfuscatory ability; there is more bad pastel than an 80's Spandau Ballet concert.

For me, the interesting issues centre around how these general approaches translate to 3D. Any sort of dashboard in 3D must follow similar principles, and not confuse the viewer with extra unnecessary information. In this space, a lot can be learned from games studios, as they routinely design high performance interfaces for multiuser environments. 3D is a tool in the hands of a good designer, who is wanting to use it to highlight spatial issues, or to communicate something that requires the detail of a 3D simulation. 3D is a bad solution, where its usage provides no extra insight into the spatial structure of the information in question.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Google Goggles

Google Goggles, sort of like beer goggles, but with a more reliable page rank for the visual target. ;-)

I wonder what sort of real time apps. could be build upon this technology. Especially interesting if the search results were incremental and personalised, and worked from a heads up display on a set of glasses. For instance, you could look up a person's Facebook details in real time as you talk to them. Shudder.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Airport Processes Video

This movie is a demonstration of the use of 3D Virtual Environments to visualise 3D BPMN Process Models, and in particular, to highlight any issues with the process model that are spatial in nature. The example is of check in processes at the Brisbane Airport.

This work is part of a paper accepted for the Asia-Pacific Conference on Conceptual Modelling (APCCM 2010) to be held in Brisbane -


Saturday, December 19, 2009


Have just published a demonstration video of the Hyperprocess BPMN Process Model builder prototype I developed for the ACIS 2009 paper.

Video is here at the BPMVE Youtube channel.


Disney Company Process Models

Was sent an article on an early Walt Disney process oriented organisation chart.

An interesting debate has ensued on the site about on what this shows about the nature of the Walt Disney company in the 40's. In effect, were they more strongly process oriented?

However, I feel as though this may be a slight misnomer to see the organisation chart as a real indicator of company ethos. My observation is that the process oriented vs hierarchy simply shows different views of the same sets of processes and resources interacting. A simple assumption would be that people gather around processes that they are naturally involved with, due to their skill sets. The more common hierarchy diagram is quite valid; I would use it if I needed to answer a question about who my manager is at the time.

While I'm sure a business would benefit from such visualisations of their processes, I wonder if they show what obviously happens anyway, when a group of people in a company work together. I've never thought about my work as a hierarchy, more as a social network gathered around a set of tasks; in my case, to teach and to research. But then again I work in a University, where we are driven strongly by our own interests. The private sector will, of course, differ strongly on this point. So, I will leave the deep analysis to the management experts.


ACIS 2009 Paper

My latest paper, co-written with Jan Recker at QUT, is now available from QUT ePrints.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Business Virtual Worlds - ProtoSphere

Much has been made of the generalised virtual worlds developed so far, including Second Life, Open Simulator, et al. Interesting now that a number of more specialised worlds are being developed for business collaboration purposes. ProtoSphere is one that I have come across here.

It provides sharepoint document integration (nice), but is still a server solution, so you have to open up your firewall for it to run. It reminds me somewhat of Google Lively for business applications.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

3DSee WebSite

I have commented before about the difficulty of modelling 3D environments with typical virtual environment toolsets offered by Second Life et al. Another approach is the use of image-based modelling methods using computer vision techniques to generate 3D models from CCD imagery. This means that a business analyst can create a model of an enterprise from camera imagery, a technology well within reach of non-IT people.

At ACID, a QUT research centre, a colleague of mine, Dr David McKinnon, has developed just such a system, which is available as a web service -

Well worth a visit.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Supply Chain Real Time Sensor Data

FedEx have taken the step of developing sensor bundles that you can drop into a package for real-time tracking of your precious cargo. Sensors on the device tell you where the package is, its temperature, and whether the package has been opened.

$120 US a month is a little pricy for the laity, but would be worth it for special cargo in the area of life sciences, which is the target market.

However, if this information can be sent via such simple tracking devices, and the price goes down, then these devices could be used for so much data logging of sensor information.

So, apropos of nothing. Maybe when the temperature sensors come to people's iPhones, instead of folding at home, we could have "Weather at Home." Crowd sourcing micro climate information from people's mobile phones.

Now that would be the BOM!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We interrupt this business blog with a gratuitous picture

Usually I write about the visualisation of business process models. However, this week I have just come across some truly beautiful pictures of the 3D Mandelbrot set, and they made my computer graphics heart go all a quiver. So I thought I would share the URL with the 2.5 people who read my blog.



Friday, November 6, 2009

QUT BPM Wordle

Last weekend our research group had a retreat at the O'Reilly's Forest Retreat in Lamington National Park, Qld. I ran a session where I asked the group members present to write down five phrases that represent their research work. After removing obvious phrases, such as Business Process Management and Services, I uploaded the data to the Many Eyes visualisation service at IBM, and came up with this Wordle.

A Wordle displays words from a sequence of text, in a size that is proportional to the number of times it is present. It is often used in folksonomy research, as it provides insight into emerging clusters of terms within the language of a community.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

BPMVE YouTube Channel

You might want to look at the BPMVE YouTube channel, where I post videos of our demonstration software.

A widget of this channel is also situated on the right of this blog.


My Latest Papers

For those interested, I have updated my eprints at QUT to include my latest papers.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Ten Billion Reasons for Serious Research Funding

Found a blog entry here that is predicting a ten billion dollar industry for Serious Games.

This number will start to rival the size of the games industry as a whole, which is $11.7 billion as of 2008.

Would be good if the prediction comes true. I might finally get some substantial funding for my BPM research in this area. :-)


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Interactive Visualisation to Facilitate Expert Knowledge

Came across this tool for structuring arguments over at the Independent Newspaper. You can register and add arguments for the main topic, and vote for the arguments posted by other people.

Might be useful for eliciting expert information for Business Process Modelling. Using software tools for gathering such consensus-based information from clients, may help with some of the problems with modelling software and business systems. Such collaborative software can be used to obtain a more accurate estimate of the way people do work in an enterprise.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Augmented Virtuality for Processes

Google Earth with real time updates is now a possibility in the near future, with research being performed at Georgia Tech. A nice YouTube video is shown here of research into augmenting 3D Google Earth locations with camera updates, that are processed to show pedestrian and car movements in an area.

This is useful for showing process information updates in real time in a virtual setting.

We can now see that the various representation spaces for information: virtual world, image/video and augmented reality, seem to be heading towards a unified whole representation. Such a multi-space can be used to freely move in an out of 3D representations as we see fit, or to embed one within another - eg. Second Life as a 3D rendering on your physical desk using Augmented Reality technology.

So, the console view of your company's information, may indeed be spatially laid out in future, within a world visualisation like Google Earth.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kant and the Art of Visualisation

I often think of Kant's ideas of the sublime while I muse about Visualisation and Computer Graphics. In short, Sublime is the feeling when in the presence of something that invokes awe, and may be akin to religious experience. I spoke at MS Tech.Ed on the Gold Coast, Qld just this Tuesday about the same thing. Computer Graphics has a peculiar place in Computer Science, along with maybe Audio Signal Processing, in that we can create algorithms that have a direct emotional impact on the viewer.

I like to tell my Real-time Rendering Students at QUT that their job is to create imagery that evokes an enjoyable experience in the player/viewer.

BTW, just found a blog on Beautiful Visualisation. Go have a read, it looks good, maybe even sublime...


Monday, August 31, 2009

Virtual Thin Clients

From the Yesha blog, a great link to an article about the use of LLMedia to show the output from a desktop application on a prim in SL.

This introduces all sorts of possibilities in the area of visualising running process applications, as you can show the application running in real time on a "terminal" in the Virtual Environment.

Now, if only we could open up the event streams in an OS to the Virtual Environment message passing scripts, then we could have some very interesting thin client, virtual application servers.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Second Life Business Report Q2 2009

Second Life continues to grow, despite doom reports about its demise. These results are from Linden Labs., so some sping is assumed. However, there are rules about financial reporting for businesses that should be assumed here as well. So despite reports to the contrary, Second Life continues to be a viable and growing environment.

For me this is not such an issue, since my work in this space is around the Open Simulator project, in particular, using such a world to visualise Business Process Models. But I do have to comment, that this field is still gaining pace as a serious place for business...

Just wish I could get some content out (once purchased) and into my other sims!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Business Process Model in a Day

Have been putting together some code in Open Simulator recently, and have noticed the effort involved in creating 3D Business Environments to support any 3D Process Models. Traditional CAD oriented modelling is problematic in this space, as it requires doing the modelling by hand, so to speak, and lacks industrial level methods for generating content. Procedural methods, while able to generate content from programmatic and grammatical constructs, still do not help with representing the information in a specific business.

This is where image-based modelling techniques are invaluable, due to their ability to generate three dimensional geometry from images of an object. Reading the BoingBoing blog today, I came across this project at the University of Washington. The intention is to create techniques and approaches which will allow the building of geometric models of Rome from images in Flickr with Rome location tags.

With such approaches maturing, it might be feasible to use such techniques when trying to generate a 3D model of a business for a process model visualisation. This means that a business analyst could create a 3D model of components of the business from movies or photos taken of key sites in the business.
However, I think the techniques need to mature a little before I would hand them over to an MBA Graduate, just yet. ;-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Analyse or Execute

From Yusuf Pisan's website quote of the day.

Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute - Abelson and Sussman

So, applying this to process models, does this statement hold?


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

US Marine Simulation via Mixed Reality

Continuing our military theme for the past few weeks, here is a great video on the simulators used for Marine training. The system is mixed reality in nature, incorporating environments that simulate Iraq and Afghanistan based scenarios.

Interesting to note the emotional responses of the recruits during the exercises. A key factor in the use of these simulations is to immerse the participant in the feel of the whole environment. Using a mixed reality setting goes a long way to assisting this process.

This has its applications in business processes as well. Even in business, there is an emotional component to a business environment that needs to be experienced in order to have the correct idea about the processes being performed. This is especially required for training applications with people. The health sector realises this, and has sunk a lot of money into health worker training simulations. However, to model the feel of an environment takes a lots of work to get right.

Which should keep me busy in my research for some time yet.


Monday, May 4, 2009

War Room Processes

Was watching an old WII propaganda movie on Auntie (Australian ABC) the other night. Found the Command Centre system used by the British quite fascinating. The UK had an advanced warning system of people listening for bombers on the coast. This was then relayed to HQ, and a visualisation setup, with two screens. One for detection purposes, where the bombers were plotted at regular intervals, and another table for interception preparation.

This interested me due to the visualisation analogs from over 60 years ago. Tables displayed regular updates on bomber and interceptor movements, along with a division of visualisations into different tasks - interception planning and monitoring. All of this tied together with much human input, to provide interactive updates on information, but not in real time...that comes with computers and sensors.

Reminded me of the historical background to the development of real-time computer displays and visualisations. Everything we do now in Info. Vis. has had an analog in history, performed manually.

And I thought I was being original. :-)


Thursday, April 30, 2009

BPMNexus Professional Network

Was just invited to join this professional group called BPMNexus. Seems to be garnering a lot of attention from BPM professionals. As we say in OZ, "Give it a burl!"


Monday, April 27, 2009

Visualisation by Story Telling

Have just finished watching Battlestar Galactica, Season 4. Loved it. Have a soft spot for melodrama, and a good twisted plotline.

What has it to do with process modelling? Well, it struck me that a process model is a story, just like those used in entertainment programs such as BSG. It is the storyline of work performed within an organisation by people. Stories are also often described as people making choices, this choice making is another aspect of workflow.

So, can a story approach be applied to process visualisation? Humans have a long oral tradition in many societies of using story tellers to communicate information. The question the occurs to me, is whether a story is an engaging and easy to remember form of communication for educational purposes about processes.

I guess any teacher will tell you that a good story engages children. Have not read any information about whether this form is useful for technical information communication, so am speaking off the top of my head here. But, it is worth a thought, and I think I will return to this topic later.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Second Life and Medical Processes

Interesting post at the Dr Yesha blog about medical training in Second Life. Seems that Health is now a big user of virtual environments, with a lot of research being performed into its benefits. Intersects with a lot of my research with the Smart Services CRC in Australia.

Back on a Positive Note

Has been a while since I posted on this blog. Have been very busy with various papers and research and other work. So, thought I would begin the return with a reference to the positive results from Second Life's economy in this article. Have noticed myself that the online numbers of people has actually been steadily rising each time I log into the virtual world.

As I have suggested before, once the Gartner hype cycle dies, we will see the real applications emerge for such virtual world technology. Seems the savings in cost for in-world meetings is becoming attractive now, with the GFC draining a lot of travel budgets.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

CFP: Massively Multiuser Virtual Environments (MMVE 2009)


The 2nd International Workshop on Massively Multiuser Virtual Environments (MMVE 2009) at the IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality 2009 (VR09)

March 15th, 2009
Lafayette, Louisiana, USA

With the increasing number of potential users of virtual and augmented reality systems, as indicated by the recent booms of massively multiuser online societies, the design of distributed, massively multiuser virtual environments

(MMVEs) becomes increasingly important, posing new requirements on both distribution platforms and virtual reality systems. Facing these challenges is a community-spanning effort that requires pooling the resources and experiences of both the virtual reality and the networking/ distributed computing communities.

This workshop hopes to provide a link between these communities to foster the development of highly distributed, flexible and robust virtual environments. We aim to gather both practitioners and researchers under one roof to discuss their findings, incite collaborations, and move the state of the art forward.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Farsighted UK Minister

Came across this article where Civil Service Minister Tom Watson has stated that serious games could play a "substantial role" in overcoming a UK recession expected to last throughout 2009.

"The government's constant aim is to improve delivery of public services, but the economic downturn means that right now, we have pretty much no margin for error," Watson said at a recent serious games conference in the UK. "Delivering more for less has never been so important, at least not in my lifetime, and serious games can play a substantial role in helping do that at a time when public services will be more and more in demand."

Have had similar discussions with people in government in Qld and the rest of Australia about using such gaming systems for public service delivery. Good to see high level government support for the idea in the UK. In addition, he sees this as a great money spinner for their Computer Game Industry.

So, I think it is about time to do this in Australia...