A recent conversation with one of the worlds most influential trading desks netted the question, what does the next generation of trading application look like, "what is possible today and where are we going?" Observing a teenager today playing a video game yields some answers and direction with regard to this question and that is, immersion. Immersion may be the guiding principal as ISV's look to develop the next generation of trading application. Taking cue's from the gaming industry and leveraging its game design will not only serve to meet some of the user interface expectations of the next generation but also increase their effectiveness. As pointed out by many traders today, the slowest thing they do is translate information taken from a screen into action at the end of their fingers on a keyboard. Looking at game immersion and how players use multiple senses to collect, ingest, analyze and act on information and the speed at which they do, it seems only logical that the industry heads this way.
Imagery is a very powerful and complex conveyance of information and coupled with auditory cues, the human mind can process more information at a much faster pace than through the textual conveyance of information. Examining today's traders one can see how they have attempted to create an immersion environment for themselves. The din and drone of the trading floor itself can provide auditory cues to traders as the pitch and activity rises in certain areas on the floor. Look at the average traders work space, surrounded by six to eight LCD screens, a turret that can at times look like a Christmas tree and a hoot or squawk linking multiple desks across the globe. I have witnessed the same seemingly blank stare of a trader at their screens as I have a teenager engrossed in the latest first person game but that stare is not an indication of idle synapses in the brain. Rather it is the manifestation of the physiological transformation to sensory absorption where the mind is solely focused on the goal and leveraging all available sensory inputs.
As institutions we will likely need to leverage consumer technology and design to meet the requirements of the next generation of trader. We need to start to explore how best to convey information in a much more consumable fashion. The ability to convey complex data in graphical format can be much more effective than textual conveyance alone. The human eye is much more sensitive to shapes, colors and movement than the brain is to characters on a screen. Add in auditory stimuli and you have a very powerful mechanism to communicate with.
Microsoft partners such as Lab49 ( www.lab49.com) and Aqumin (www.aqumin.com) have recognized the capabilities of graphical conveyance of financial services data and have worked with order management ISVs like LineData (www.linedata.com) to leverage graphical display and Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation layer (www.windowsclient.net/WPF). As an industry, the gaming community is arguably further along the graphical and immersion interaction curve than financial services. It would behoove partners and customers alike to seek out the development expertise and knowledge of the gaming community, as the next generation of traders are not getting any younger.