Re: Animated planner, semi-transparent 3D charts

Forrest Bishop (
Fri, 02 Jan 1998 22:10:09 -0800

Jeff Allbright wrote:
> Forrest -
> Can you provide some information on the animated planner and 3D chart that
> you mentioned. This kind of visualization software sounds like it something
> of interest to many of us challenged with presenting complex interrelated
> information.

> Forrest Bishop wrote:
> I've played around with a animated planner,

"Played around" is the operative phrase- it consists mostly of ideas
and a few tests in some of my animation software (RayDream 5,
Trispectives 2).
One version has morphing objects moving along a time axis, affecting
each other in various ways. A more ambitious version would have
physics-like interactivity among the items (e.g. ideas bounce off each
other, new projects squeeze out old), no time axis.
Some work has been done on connecting the objects with colored lines
and with transparent rods (etc.) having their own attributes.
It is these connections, and how they grow and interweave over time,
that are of most interest. As a personal planner, I put priority on one
There was a Quipu (sp?), Digital Quipu thread on this list a couple
ago about how the Inca represented information without text. There may
be ideas
from that system that are applicable.

Some reasons for using animation software:
Being able to turn features such as detail levels, whole layers,
attributes, etc. on and off is very appealing for a user interested
in particular aspects. Picking camera angles and trajectories is
also very helpful - immersive VR would be even better.

Two major problems with this idea:
Representing abstract concepts with 3D objects. Making them out of text
helps a little, but screen resolution is a constraint.
Picking what the other two (or all three) axes represent (I have a most
unfortunate disability: visualizing multidimensional structures is
impossible.) Picking multiple views helps a little, using an axis for
than one property can get confusing, using layers helps sometimes.

One project I would like to do is to represent the past history of
science and technology this way (I don't have the time for this,
though), as a means of developing a future technology visual aid.
The vacuum tube, for example, is represented as threads of icons in
the 19th century and earlier (light bulb, vacuum pump, etc.) that
coalesce into a tube icon near the turn of the 20th century. New
threads spring from this, for triodes, pentodes, Klystrons, etc.
These merge with other threads to form radio amps,
radar, etc. Then most fade away with the advent of the transistor-
the derivatives keep going.
Running the simulation up to the present gives some insight into
future developments, various scenarios can then be played out,
bearing in mind their chaotic nature.


Forrest Bishop
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering