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.