A passion for creating 3D content made Tomer Sagi take the big leap to becoming self-employed in 2005. He left his job as a software architect at NZ Post to work full-time on building a visual user interface (VUI) software platform. Then, soon after starting up his company Chaos Dimention, Sagi moved into Wellington’s business incubator, Creative HQ.
Originally from Israel, Sagi now has two full-time developers on staff — a Russian and a Kiwi. He also employs a number of animators, who come in to work on specific projects. The team is currently working on two products — an Excel VUI plug-in and an Outlook VUI plug-in. These will be launched in early 2008, says Sagi.
“The idea behind the platform is to create a standard for visualising and interacting with information using 3D, across the board. Microsoft Office, other applications, such as SAP, IBM and Oracle, as well as internet stuff — such as web-based email and online banking — everything will have VUI on top. That is our [mission],” says Sagi.
For example, the VUI plug-in for Outlook reads the information in Outlook and then creates an interactive 3D model of all the emails there.
“Hopefully, this will enable you to find emails from a specific person, from a specific day, or with specific characteristics, very quickly, using imagery – 3D [features] such as colour, animation and lighting, which add interpretation to the information itself,” he says.
Today’s interfaces are not up to the task of managing the rapidly increasing volume and complexity of data, he says.
The 3D concepts of Chaos Dimention’s software come from gaming, says Sagi. For example, this could involve grabbing and moving things or looking at terrain and understanding where to drive, by using intuition, he says.
“Using this platform we can present complex data in a life-like environment, and users can understand and manipulate large volumes of information quickly, [allowing] them to extract more meaning from their data and make better decisions faster,” he says.
The company is testing its plug-ins on older computers — from around 2000 — to make sure the software can run on these machines and is not just aimed at high-end machines, says Sagi. He also wants the plug-ins to be affordable — in the $50-60 price range, he says.
Sagi and his team use open standards, such as Open GL, which allows the application to run on many different platforms, including, for example Mac, Windows and Unix, he says. The software is built in C++ and Java. “On the Java-side, we are using a lot of open source,” he says.
The company is close to signing a contract with a large multinational firm, says Sagi, who plans to employ four more staff before the end of the year.
“We are also targeting partners, mainly local application and service providers, to push VUI into other applications and complement their offerings with a visual front,” he says.
The company is also investigating collaborating with computer interface centre the HIT Lab at the University of Canterbury, to do research and development.
“Looking at the market trends, and the research that we have done, 3D visualisation is going to grow a lot from now until 2011,” says Sagi. “Because of its strong 3D industry, New Zealand is one of the best places in the world for 3D creativity and 3D digital content,” he adds.