Intermezzo: storytelling

Yes, storytelling is hot. Does this mean that I have to tell you everything about all the hard labour, my setbacks and successes? I don’t think so, since you are a business reader and hopefully the best way to get your attention is to demonstrate the potential business value of AnRep3D. Yet, while reading a book about “storytelling” I realised that this blog doesn’t tell a lot about AnRep3D and its history. That’s why I will tell my story in a concise way. Just for now.

picture by Wikiimages on Pixabay

How it started

I remember visiting the “reality cube” of the University of Groningen in the year 2004 and being really impressed by what I saw. Then I asked people with the reality cube if it would be possible to visualise abstract data e.g. from measurements. Actually, this question was inspired by Michael Ridpath’s novel “Trading Reality” They told me they sometimes did visualise data, but it took the team a couple of weeks to prepare new software showing those data. This meant that such a 3D-graph would cost EUR 100 * 40 * 2 * 2 (tariff per hour * hours per week * number of team-members) = over EUR 15000

When I got back at the incubator where I was working back then, I told everybody about the potential of an automated conversion of data into 3D-graphs instead of this lengthy process they told me about. No human labour, just an input-file and an output-file within seconds.

Photo by pixel2013 on Pixabay

Nobody understood why 3D-graphs would add business value (think about the first comments on mobile phones: useless, no added value, no-one needed such a device) and actually they even didn’t understand what was meant by a 3D-graph (and until now, luckily even Excel still doesn’t understand).

Prototyping and crisis

The only way to educate my market was to come up with a prototype but I’m not a software engineer. Seeing no alternative, I learnt VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language – later on called Virtual Reality Modelling Language).

After a while I was able to create a generator in QuickBasic that converted numbers into a 3D-graph in VRML. It worked, but then I discovered al kinds of flaws and started improving. At the same time I investigated all kinds of markets and in the end the financial markets seemed to be the most interesting ones (probably because I had limited knowledge of some other areas). VRBI (Virtual Reality Business Intelligence) was born!

My dream was to create a real VR environment, where one could walk literally through a graph. A more modest first step was to use stereoscopy. This time I failed completely as I really don’t understand hardware at all. I asked my oldest son for help – and actually hired him – but he didn’t like the subject although he is really good at hardware.

Recently I discovered my old blog-posts from over ten years ago about this period. It was very frustrating and I spent a lot of money buying devices, but things didn’t work out because of the crappy technology. Then the crisis hit us hard and for a couple of years I had to work as a consultant and travel a lot, just to let my family survive.

Entering the 3rd millennium

After a couple of years I decided to start again, taking smaller steps, just showing a 3D-graph on the screen just in the way the popular games did. That was what I was able to realise with some effort. While I was struggling with the technology, several browser plug-ins for VRML were terminated. Most standalone viewers were incomplete and VRML’s successor (X3D) never became popular, so I ended up in a vacuum. There was one good VRML stand-alone viewer left, but (at least back then) it was hard to work with and rather unstable. I didn’t expect my audience (primarily business people) to work with this kind of solution, so eventually I moved to HTML5, the modern Internet language. As a matter of fact, this new version uses JavaScript – something I don’t understand very well.

Long story short: fortunately a kind of cloud-service by Fraunhofer came up (called X3DOM), translating my X3D-like scripts. Finally I was able to jump into the future! My youngest son helped me by creating a Java-framework for input/output. I leant a bit of Java – just enough to re-write all the calculations within, needed for the X3D-like output and added the “engine” part of the generator.

A step aside

Meanwhile, my middle son decided to join our university of applied business sciences. I told him he could try and sell some spin-off products which were left unused after the focus on annual reports. About the same time I had a clash with the tax-department because my revenues were too low and I wasn’t allowed to go on as an entrepreneur. In the end, after 25 years, I handed over my company (SCIENTASSIST) to my son. For a couple of years I kept improving those spin-off products. Using them myself (and blogging about them – this old blog is partially in English) I was able to think like a user instead of being a visionary. In the end, VRBI was a nice product and I went back to the original idea, still inspired by Michael Ridpath.

AnRep3D was born (again)

After this experience, I went back to my original idea: visualising data from Annual Reports for a group of companies through several years. After modernising the old attempts, I knew I had to work with the AnRep3D generator myself to be able to come up with a mature product. Working on my blog-posts I discovered a lot of potential improvements. Finally I had a good, basic product and started my campaigns and here we are – two years and three months after the first post of this blog. After all it has been quite a journey!

Do you want to try the AnRep3D-generator yourself? Download the free 3D-graph generator package, without registering!

For a better understanding of the generator we have a couple of short movies at our youtube-channel. Our email-address is  and you can follow is on Twitter: @AnRep3D

About AnRep3D

AnRep3D is the new company, founded after the handover of Scientassist (together with VRBI) to one of my sons. From now I will focus on three-dimensional graphs for the financial markets, showing the main figures from annual reports in comparison. As per 2021 a second product is available: EnRep3D. It is meant to visualise energy. Although the engine is the same, the texts, manual, website and examples (including blogposts) are focused at energy.
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