Using 3D graphics for database visualisation
The upsurge in the number of casual users and the general acceptance of computer technology has shown that the principal driving force in software engineering is shifting from functionality to usability. It has also become evident that the desktop metaphor and its whole related genre do not provide the modern interface designer with the expressive power that is needed. Nowhere is a new approach more needed than in interfaces for databases. Previous studies in interface design for database management systems have attempted to use solely the desktop metaphor. We have used three dimensional graphical techniques to construct an interface, called Amaze for our object oriented database P/FDM. Interactive animated 3D graphics have been embedded inside a standard menu driven framework. Using 3D graphics new metaphors have been developed to aid the user interaction. Our development has taken a modular approach, which allowed us to develop a number of different visualisations for query construction, the structure of the database and result representation. It is possible to view the data using a number of multimodal displays (a number of customised multimodal displays have been built). Amaze has been used on a variety of different data sets (including a protein structure database, a personnel database and an antibody database). These databases differ greatly in size and complexity of their semantics. The work discussed in this thesis suggests an alternative approach to user interface design for database systems, it introduces the idea of Database Visualisation and suggests novel mechanisms for computer interaction using 3D graphics.