🗣 Seven companies were chosen for the Microsoft HoloLens Agency Readiness Program, one of the solutions was a prototype of a ‘Holographic Workstation’, designed and engineered for global banking organization Citi.
It’s clear that the recent explosion of virtual and mixed reality will have an enormous effect on industries such as gaming and entertainment that are centered around imagery and story. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: the effects of these new media can be much broader.
💡 The challenge was to explore the ramifications and possibilities of mixed reality in an industry focused on something other than imagery. The world of financial trading was an excellent field to explore whether mixed reality could have an impact, developing a Proof of Concept that illustrates how mixed reality is the next game-changing technology for finance.
Financial traders’ current workstations provide an abundance of data, but in formats that are difficult to process and prioritize—long streams of figures on multiple monitors, each representing something different. This solution uses a combination of 2D and 3D presentations of data to optimize the trader’s ability to extract meaning from the information, quickly and accurately. Through increasing efficiency, while reducing time, cost, and the cognitive load of working with abstract data, the same strengths to bear across any domain involving data interpretation and collaboration were achieved.
To gain a deep understanding of the futures trading business and Citibank’s processes, developers explored traders’ frustrations and pain points, which include:
👉 lack of prioritization within six to eight screens of 2D information
👉 lack of easily discernible centralized knowledge
👉 inefficiency in navigating between windows and tabs
👉 inefficiency in recognizing critical patterns and market changes
👉 loss of opportunity for collaboration and dialogue
👉 loss of the “human element” and the “feel of what is going on in the market”
- Focus Areas
Using the HoloLens Design Patterns and drawing from the pain points identified, five specific areas on which to focus were defined:
👉 ambient communication
👉 volumetric data visualization
The workstation itself is a framework that extends information-based computing into mixed reality by integrating 2D screen space; 3D holographic docking space; keyboard, mouse, gaze, gesture and voice input; and the customary trading floor phone systems. The station complements existing Citibank devices and workflows, including traditional news terminals, email, chat, and core components of Citibank’s proprietary trading application.
Opportunities to increase trader efficiency using a combined 2D-3D holographic workflow were explored. By combining voice, gaze, and gesture input with visual design using depth space and Z axis, developers were able to reduce visual noise and increase efficiency in navigation.
💭 Ambient Communication
The financial trader requires a great deal of information but doesn’t want to be inundated with all of it at once. They created a system that communicates information in a persistent but non-obtrusive way. A bubble map of the market, using data indicators like size and color, allows the trader to assimilate holistic changes in the trading environment with a glance, without having to scrutinize data.
📊 Volumetric Data Visualization
A combination of 2D and 3D also increases efficiency in extrapolating insights from data. Citibank traders work with hundreds of financial instruments. In the HoloLens workstation, each one is represented by a sphere and is grouped into a color-coded asset class. Sphere volume corresponds to market volume for a particular future, and particle clouds correspond to clusters of trader activity, so a trader can quickly see where the action is in the market and can zoom in for a closer look.
Ad hoc mixed reality spaces for collaboration and discussion allow the trader to work with team members, colleagues, and clients in a way that is both personal and immediate.
Design & Development
🗣 The workstation framework was designed with the overarching concept of broad-on-top to specific-on-the-bottom, and with a three-tiered shelf structure. The shelves were designed to be a certain distance from the user and at certain proportions to optimize our usage of the device’s field of view (FOV): each tier’s bounds roughly correlate with view capabilities. One goal here was to allow the user to focus on a single part of their workstation at a time, letting that tier fill their view while the others persist in memory until they glance back up at them.
The design workflow meant creating a basic framework “sandbox” that supported static and animated models. Developers explored and built out important tools, asking questions like: “What would our cursor look like? What’s the logic for using gaze+tap to move an object? How do you distinguish movement from rotating? What’s the right scale?” Letting the designers arrange objects in-Lens was an important step.
As the project progressed, useful tool ideas continued to come up, and engineers worked to integrate them into the sandbox toolkit, but gradually the design needed more functional implementation. The engineering team pivoted towards prototyping functionality in collaboration with designers, focusing on getting motion and interaction in the right place and on facilitating as quick an iteration cycle as possible.
Holographic Workstation: an overview
🗣 The Holographic Workstation increases efficiency by using the Microsoft HoloLens platform to create 3D holograms of real-time financial data. A three-tiered system of dynamically updated and interactive information enables traders to view, process, and interact with large amounts of abstract data in a combined 3D and 2D environment. The physical workstation integrates tablet screen space, 3D holographic docking space, keyboard, mouse, gaze, gesture, voice input, and existing Citi devices and workflows.
“This business solution in the financial industry revolutionizes the way people will interact with and best use financial data in a compelling and competitive way,” said George Zinn, corporate vice president, and treasurer at Microsoft.
This is a great example of the usage of new technologies to think outside the box and solve real-world business problems by combining expertise in data visualization, collaboration, annotation, and mixed reality development in a truly innovative and groundbreaking way. The outcome really evolves the workstation paradigm in a way that will be indicative of how information workers across multiple industries will interact with computers in the years ahead through innovative MR solutions that enhance their businesses.