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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn