Is there any better way to spend a Monday than to build a 3D Dashboard (using some sample reports from my upcoming OWB course)?

You can obviously see I’m not describing 3D report effects in the context of a web based reporting application, but rather a 3D environment that has the actual dashboard content displayed in 3D space. I had been giving a lot of thought recently to the constant craving of executives for BI dashboards. In fact I think some organizations might consider implementing such a solution because of the following two realities:

  1. Executives love web based dashboards, but what they really want is to have the NASDAQ MarketSite at their office. Screen upon screen of everything they need to know to make great decisions. Building out hundreds of LCD panels might not fly with shareholders though, and I don’t blame them as they are very expensive. With this sort of interface, one can still get the “control room” metaphor without the expense.
  2. The generation of “video game playing and we’ve been using computers since 2nd grade” are now being tapped into the highest C-level positions. It’s not uncommon for an executive to know how to play a little DOOM (even if it was more than a few years back). In other words, there are a significant number of executives that would not feel “uncomfortable” in front of a multiplayer game interface.

However, there are SIGNIFICANT limitations to a 3D space, not the least of which is the ability to handle 2D information quickly and effectively (a la web pages/actual applications). When I began the exercise I was certain that there would be no use in the project unless it could integrate back with EXISTING systems. There is no way one would be able to work effectively entirely in a 3D work, so it would have to play nicely with the current applications. I’ve done a very small integration with Oracle Discoverer where by clicking on one of the dashboard 3D objects you see Discoverer Viewer drilled to the sheet in question alongside the 3D world. Without something like this, where people could get to the “real work”, I think a 3D dashboard is pretty much a nonstarter.

One could take the metaphor further, and have virtual meetings in the control room. Here I’ve pictured the dashboard from the “3rd” person view instead of the “1st” person view. Consider a situation where the District Sales Manager calls the Senior VP of Sales and asks to “show him” some area of concern. He could literally take the SVP/Sales to the dashboard area and they could sift through the data together.

I sort of haphazardly found this 3D software, as I have a customer that used it (ActiveWorlds) as a prototype for a 3D community so their web site visitors could explore articles on their site, chat with each other, play 3D games, etc. While I was at that customer site I helped them integrate some “external media” into the 3D product, and found it rather straightforward and easy. I don’t mean to offend but I found the communities who play 3D games a bit strange and having little to no interest in the external application of their technologies. I found a myriad of resources on the legend and lore of ficticious 3D worlds (and rivalries between them) but few resources on how to “drill through with URL parameters.”

I’ve attached some screenshots in this article, and there is also a 12MB AVI file that demos the solution. I built it on a corporate system so I can’t offer up access to the outside world at this time. However, I greatly value the community traffic and opinions so if there’s enough interest perhaps I’ll see about “putting it up.” Email me if you’d like to actually play with it and I’ll see what I can do.
UPDATE: There were some issues with the CODEC for the AVI. If you had problems previously, feel free to try again.