SPECIAL THEME: GRIDS e-Science to e-Business
ERCIM News No.45 - April 2001 [contents]

The M3-Project - Living in Simulated Worlds

by Helge Rosé and Matthias L. Jugel

Complex real world systems are currently becoming a decisive instrument for IT-supported problem solving for a great number of problems in science, economy and society. This enables us for the first time to find new solutions, visions, and strategies for sustainable development on the basis of complex, real world simulations.

The main objective of the M3-project is the realization of a distributed, interactive real world simulation system. The idea of embedding multidisciplinary simulation models in a virtual reality environment involving real human actors in the simulation is fundamental. The distributed design of the M3-system aims at an integrated simulation of complex processes belonging to heterogeneous levels of reality, paying specific attention to real human modes of conduct. It represents a generic implementation of the GRID concept in the field of real world simulation.

The social behavior of man doubtlessly plays a major role in the investigation, simulation and sustainable management of ecological, economical and political systems. A simulation system that attempts a realistic consideration can not only simulate human behavior - but has to involve real actors directly into the simulation. They participate in the simulation by their actions and can develop strategies securing long-term development. On the other hand, they can experience possible consequences of their behavior and, thus, improve their strategic decisions in a process of evolutionary learning. A simulation based on scientifically-founded simulation models, using current data of measurement and actively involving man in this way, we refer to as a ‘Man-Model-Measurement simulation’.

M3-simulation combines the scientific approach of conventional simulation systems with multimedia capabilities from the technology of virtual reality in a distributed way. The four main features of the system are: Modeling and Data management of real systems by scientifically-founded models and generalized databases, Visualization and Information by intuitive representation using a VR-environment, Communication and Interaction by active involvement of people in the simulation, Evolution and Enhancement by an open software API. The general structure of the M3-system is unified by a Multi User Virtual Environment (MUVE) representing the logical structure of the simulated world and coordinating the communication between the three main components of the framework: Multi-Purpose Graphical User Interface for visualization of the simulated world in specialized views adapted for the different user groups (actors, experts, decision makers, publicity), Model Server providing a distributed network of scientific simulation models connected via generic control and data mapping interfaces (RMI, XML), Measurement Database providing current measuring data, reference configurations and parameters of the real environment in question.

General structure of the M3-System.

A crucial advantage of modeling a real world system by means of a MUVE is given by the possibility to map the real world into the simulated world in a consistent object-oriented manner. A state-process-relation model of the objects which constitute the MUVE is not only essential for building a virtual image of the considered reality, it is also a promising approach to overcome the ‘coupling problem’ of modeling multidisciplinary systems. The creation of the M3-world in orders of magnitude is more complex than most current available MUVEs. To investigate new software architectures to handle such complexity will be one of the major tasks. The control and data communication between the models will be realized by specialized markup languages which employ the XML technology for easy extension and validation.

The realization of the M3-concept is an encouraging and very challenging enterprise. Successful realization necessitates the far-reaching cooperation of all involved scientific fields. In fact, the interactive character of the M3-world itself provides an efficient environment for development, fast communication and cooperation. Because the M3-framework is not only a ‘software’ but a simulated world with real humans, it has the ability to evolve itself. For this it is necessary to conceive the system as an open software project with a controlled programming interface. In this way, the M3-concept will not only simulate the real world - it will also employ its natural process of creation and advancement to reach the ambitious aim of opening up a new kind of simulation initiating manifold possibilities of application for the investigation, simulation and imparting of knowledge, as well as for management of real world systems in the fields of:

The M3 Project: http://mmm.first.gmd.de

Please contact:
Helge Rosé - GMD
Tel: +49 30 6392 1835
E-mail: rose@first.gmd.de