Network: Wall Street goes 3D

The New York Stock Exchange adds a new dimension to dealing

If you are still uncomfortable with the idea of lucre being less about paper and more about electronic pulses criss-crossing the financial computer networks of the world, then don't think about visiting the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the near future.

Last week, after three years of development, the world's largest equities market - and the biggest name in Wall Street, booted up the first-ever 3D virtual trading floor. This meant that a real-time model of all the business currently taking place was near instantaneously evoked in a graph- heavy Technicolor landscape projected on to a 7ft square video wall. The business of graphically representing how 800 million shares a day are traded was under way.

The "3D Trading Floor" (3DTF) uses state-of-the-art technology, including flat-screen plasma monitors and Silicon Graphics Onyx workstations to allow stock exchange staff to navigate through continuously updated trading information in real time and in three dimensions.

Although the installation is an impressive piece of eye candy and will be used as a telegenic backdrop for television news reports, the 3DTF is not a toy; it fulfils some key objectives for the operations staff at the stock exchange.

In the first instance, its composite modelling of every trade into an ever-fluctuating series of graphs quickly enables staff to monitor how busy the networks are and to identify possible stress points. If the market is heading towards a crash or the volume of trade is overloading the computer servers, the model's real-time image will show where the danger is.

And, with recent global financial events demonstrating that bouts of market instability currently seem endemic, the 3DTF provides a powerful analytical tool.

"After close of day we simulate market failure. We're continually verifying the model against other sources of the same data to make sure that it is representing those exceptional conditions correctly," says Anne Allen, whose role, as the senior vice-president responsible for floor operations, is to ensure that the stock market runs smoothly and efficiently.

Since the data and the model are continuously backed-up, operations staff can travel back and forth in time within the model to examine in greater detail how it was that certain situations arose. Combine that with the ability to zoom in with ever greater detail down to the level of individual stocks and how they are being traded, then system events, such as the rush to purchase a certain stock based on insider trading, can be investigated retrospectively.

Wall Street has a tradition of embracing cutting-edge information technology. From the stock ticker of 1867 and the installation of telephones on the trading floor in 1878 to the wireless handsets of the 1990s, the NYSE has always recognised that the trading of stock is essentially an information exchange and that, therefore, it benefits from technologies which make it more transparent and reliable. So now, with the 3DTF, users can visually surf the data world that, at its core, the stock exchange essentially is.

However, are people properly equipped to immerse themselves in such a dynamic 3D model? "We've spent a lot of time on usablity," says Ms Allen.

"If you don't do the 3D well or if you do the animation badly, you can really upset users when they look at the screen because it can almost make you feel sea-sick. It can also be unsettling if you are flying through space that isn't normal space to fly through, or if you are doing it too fast or too abruptly."

Creating such data-rich yet instantly navigable virtual spaces isn't an established business, so who are the designers? Video game developers? Television studios? No - a good old-fashioned architecture practice is behind the design of the 3DTF. Hani Rashid, the co-founder of Asymptote, based in Manhattan, was employed by the NYSE to design the 3DTF. Although it has done the bricks and mortar thing before, Asymptote specialises in designing elaborate information spaces that essentially exist inside a computer's circuitry and come to life through the eyes of users.

At the NYSE Asymptote built both the 3D world and its surrounding operational area, which, with its metal-clad walls, orbiting electronic message board and curved blue glass walls, looks like a posh Sega World.

"The area that we redesigned and built for the exchange brings to reality our idea of incorporating and fusing real-time, first reality environments with virtual architectures," Rashid says. "This is the area that we are concentrating on and pursuing as an architectural firm." Rashid says.

In its early days, the 3DTF is running as a barely inhabited systems administration application, but soon the virtual landscape will become more crowded as TV news anchors and Wall Street superstars are superimposed inside the model using fixed cameras and blue-screen backgrounds. Rashid wants eventually to add extra realism by providing virtual reality headsets.

So what about the traders themselves, who a decade ago operated effectively as long as they had a constant supply of sharpened pencils? Could they, like William Gibson's "data-jockeys" in the novel Neuromancer, become the new stars of this world, and will their skills change as they learn to surf the 3D world in search of a bargain trade?

"We're looking at this almost as a living laboratory, and, as people are looking and getting familiar with it, it seems there will be a likely transfer of the technology to the trading arena," says Ms Allen. "All the instincts and psyche that make a trader a good trader will be retained. What we're doing is simply improving the tools.

"Now the computer takes in all the data and synthesises it for you and presents it in clear and intuitive ways that people can then use to make their trading decision"

If the number of mini-crashes and booms we've seen this year is any indication of what's to come, then those SGI Onyx supercomputers are in for number- crunching nirvana.

Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
News
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
people
News
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996
people

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital