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By Ed Heinbockel, Visual Purple’s President/CEO

We’ve been producing compelling simulations for 15 years now. Initially interactive video, because our clients’ hardware for the most part was 2-5 years behind the technology curve, then for the last 9 years various flavors of virtual worlds: decision (scenario) based, real-time immersive 3D, and hybrid (a user efficient mash-up of the two).

We’ve trained everything from counter-terrorism to sales training. We’ve learned over the years that our first-person thinkers play best to preventing things from going boom. Yes, boom. In other words, wherever there exists the potential for bad things to happen, you better be employing training that is realistic and sticks. That the individual needs to know what to do and now. That can often make the difference between life and death. This all means that we at Visual Purple have become obsessed with playing to the highest and best use of our technology and collective expertise. This has become our mantra and strategy for success.

So, today, you find us fervently committed to applying our F.I.S.T. toolbox to difficult situations – situations demanding of accuracy and realism in a high consequence environment – all the while lashing it all together through the power of story.

Left is good…Left of Boom, that is!

We are awash in facts. Have a question? Google has an ‘answer.’ If you wanted to know the gross domestic product of New Zealand, you can find that online in a few seconds. Or in the world of training, you can endure traditional CBTs (that’s short for Computer-Based Tranings) rich in facts, and as exciting as a root canal. What matters more now than ever is the ability to put facts into context and deliver them in bite-sized pieces with emotional impact; we all know this as story. This is the magic of bringing context and building connections – if you want to convey important lessons and subject matter in ways that stick, you must first recognize the power of narrative and effectively lead your organization by creating and delivering engaging story with a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s in our DNA.

We carried this successful theme beyond Intelligent Simulations with GisterPRO. Both 1.0 and 2.0 (currently in BETA) build a story by extracting terms and concepts then displaying them in what we term a ‘Gister Graph’. This visualization bakes in an interesting story of meaning by displaying relative relationships and strengths of terms and concepts. So, with just a glance, a dense dataset of facts yields its ‘story.’

GP OldGP New

Our mission with GisterPRO, is to give people something they didn’t know they were missing: their data has a story to tell; an important story.

I wanted to take a few minutes and share some quick comments I have on a presentation that Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, presented at the Data Edge (http://dataedge.ischool.berkeley.edu/2013/) Conference last week: “Six myths of Big Data.” While I tend to agree with most of Ms. Crawford’s points, I believe two of the myths are open to debate at some level…

Myth 1- Big Data is New
Agree. As Ms. Crawford states the scale and prevalence of Big Data is reaching us in new ways. Big Data is only at the beginning climb of the hype cycle. With the way that the internet and social media are today as well as large organizations amassing data in great amounts, Big Data is here to stay. So, yes, Big Data has been around for some time and is only going to grow exponentially.

Perhaps one of the most important take-aways is that there are “…two prominent issues today in Big Data, display and insight […have] been around for awhile.” GisterPRO is a tool that helps solve these perennial challenges.

Myth 2- Big Data is Objective

Disagree…Big Data is objective. I think she really wants to say that the complexion or sources for a given dataset may or may not accurately describe a population as in the cited Hurricane Sandy biasing example. Thus, the person analyzing the data needs to be experienced and savvy enough to pose basic statistical questions around data capture/composition & thus validity.

Myth 3- Big Data Doesn’t Discriminate
Disagree. The people using Big Data may not be, however, be discriminating. Reporting truth is not discriminating. Correlations will be made, whether we like them or not.

Myth 4- Big Data Makes Cities Smart
Agree. I would go further to suggest that Big Data making cities smart will lead to an individual being more vulnerable to Orwellian-type abuse.

Myth 5- Big Data is Anonymous
Agree. Unforeseen correlations have repeatedly proven to lift the veil of privacy in a myriad of ways. Look out!

Myth 6- You Can Opt Out

Agree….kinda of. Think of it this way. If something is free (Google search or Yahoo mail to name just two of many examples), you are the product; you pay by giving up your privacy so they can sell stuff to you. There are options for opting out. Fodder for future posts…

Blogs are great if you treat them right! Our mea culpa is too much to do, and not enough time. So, things had to take a back seat…like blog posts.

We are coming out of two major technology advancements for both our simulation technology: F.I.S.T., and GisterPRO 2.0. Only recently have we been able to breathe a sigh of relief and look out to the real world of business development. So, thank you for your patience as we go about updating our websites and working to communicate our exciting new capabilities and relationships. Stay tuned!

No, we haven’t been living under a rock. In fact we have been busy, make that very busy. Why? You might ask. We are excited to announce that David Ostby and Ed Heinbockel (both resident Visual Purple geeks) have launched a project campaign on Kickstarter. It’s called Gooey Search and it actually is a spin off of the GisterPRO search technology. With Gooey Search they are setting out to change the way you and I search the internet (while still harnessing the power from Google) yet bringing in a creative and interactive approach to it. Oh and also ranking results better, cutting out all the Spam and serving up only the most relevant results to your search. To learn more about the campaign and Gooey search click on any of the below links.

Kickstarter
Gooey Search Website

Military forces around the world rely on computer-based simulators to provide invaluable training for today’s warfighters. More and more military branches are turning to the simulation and virtual training market to increase retention and performance of our treasured warfighters, maximizing the benefits of this training technology. Computer wargames in military training have had a good run, but not until recently have you seen more and more publicity around them… sure, we can thank the military for their secretive ways on this one. These simulations and virtual training projects train military staff in a full gamut of activities; ranging from training exercises to rehearsing for complex systems, all of which provide a diverse range of training requirements that must be met. The world’s simulation industry is growing larger and larger with the United States being the leader in the simulation and virtual training markets, followed closely by the UK. Sure, sometimes resources (mainly funding) are hard to come by meaning that a lot of potential training that could be developed never makes it from the initial proposal stage to the drawing board and eventual implementation. These mission rehearsal modeling tools are aiding in overall military readiness by streamlining training capabilities. One thing is for sure it beats the so-called BOGSAT (or Bunch of Guys Sitting Around a Table). Emerging technologies are changing the way today’s military trains-up.

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO, Visual Purple, LLC

I keep seeing a myriad of speculation on what Phillip Rosedale is working on within his newly founded company, The Love Machine. Out of the three projects mentioned on the company website, perhaps the third project is the most intriguing “The Brain. Can 10,000 computers become a person?” With little other information forthcoming one can only conjecture what Phillip and his team are actually up to with respect to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in virtual worlds.

The following are a few short remarks I would make on the subject: Hopefully more personality will be able to be infused into VW’s rather than just the run of the mill boring NPC’s and bots that exist out there today. Sure some NPC’s that are stationed in VW’s today provide no more stimuli to the player than talking to a brick wall. I say AI very well could be the next masterpiece to be infused into the virtual world. The caliber of content could be brought to new levels with the revelations that artificially intelligent NPC’s could bring to the table. Although many skeptics remain…Would AI in a virtual world feel more like a glorified ‘smart’ chat room? Is Artificial Intelligence really possible in a virtual world environment? Is there a real possibility of actually confusing another player that is non-human for a real human being? Will these potential AI characters actually be believable enough? Is there a timeline horizon when implementation may take place?

Sure the future of AI in virtual worlds may lie in the hands of Non-Player Characters (NPCs), but what this will actually look and play like remains unknown. This currently untapped market will more than likely see some interesting developments here in the near future. It is my belief that there are currently some covert operations of bringing AI into virtual worlds that just aren’t ready to be publicized yet. Will this new form of ‘humanoid’ be believable enough? Or will humans and AI “lifeforms” exist in the same worldly sphere. Although the inherent complexities of the virtual world are nothing like the real world it still brings a sense of awe to realize that Artificial Intelligence just may in-fact be possible, ultimately increasing the learning opportunities with virtual human interaction. We may someday ask ourselves, is that a real person or a ‘Smart’ NPC…hmmm, now wouldn’t THAT be interesting. Stay tuned…

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO, Visual Purple, LLC

Something wonderful is happening.

The controlled nature of militaries usually results in standards being pushed down the chain. Refreshingly, we are witnessing a rare phenomenon. Bohemia Interactive and its delightfully robust 3D platform, Virtual Battle Space 2 (VBS2), is taking over militaries worldwide by storm.

This bottom-up emerging standard is a testament to warfighters needing to get things done…now! They found a solution that works better than officially mandated and very expensive top-down solutions. We’re seeing VBS2 as an evolving standard for our military with the Marines leading the way and the Army close behind.

Several important announcements around VBS2 are coming soon. Stay tuned!

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO, Visual Purple, LLC

Nothing will drive an enterprise IT employee to reach for the Pepto-Bismol faster than the mention of virtual worlds! Why is that?
-Security issues and concerns
-Over-worked as it is
-Demands on “ancient” hardware
-Large client downloads (that must run through firewalls)-download limitations
-Bandwidth limitations
My point with this post is to illustrate that IT Departments need not endure heartburn over new virtual world technologies. While IT departments tend to be cautious, and understandably so, many viable options are coming on-line today that will calm and not upset the IT Gods. Stay tuned for specifics!

By Ed Heinbockel, President and CEO (Head Heretic), Visual Purple, LLC

I’m witnessing some interesting virtual world developments of late. Not a scientific study to be sure, but a real, on-the-ground reality check. Quite simply: The emperor has no clothes.

Real companies and organizations with real training budgets are making real evals of real VW solutions. What they’re learning is an anathema for many in the VW community.

So here is the deal… Collaboration, since the beginning the holy grail of virtual worlds, is taking a backseat to the realities of building real world training for today’s digital workforce.

It’s not lost on those who have built VW applications as to probably why the collaboration drum has been beat so loud, for so long. Think about it: what else can you do in a virtual world unless you have the technology to embed logics to faithfully drive story, objects, behaviors, experiences, etc???? Well, about all you could do is co-op your friends or colleagues to join in and have a social, I mean, collaborative experience. I know, this is heresy. But then again, I’ve always been a bit of a heretic.

Collaboration has its place to be sure, great examples are what you can accomplish in Qwaq, Forterra and some SL apps by Rivers Run Red. But when it comes to real, high fidelity VW training invoked in a browser being dished up from a remote LMS with demonstrable results, what I’m hearing today is “…collaboration with a fence around it would be fine down the road. But right now, budgets are tight and we like virtual worlds because they cost-effectively deliver a compelling training experience that plays to today’s gamer savvy workforce. And realistically, all my people are very busy, dispersed and scheduling them all to be in world at one time is nearly impossible.” Dovetailing with this is a pervasive non-tech company corporate fear that the training will largely become a social experience. Message received. Get good asynchronous training in the hands of people now and prove the efficacy of VWs for training and learning. THEN walk the collaborative path…baby steps, collaborative baby steps… oh, and don’t forget your emperor’s, er, avatar’s clothes!