Directions Magazine (DM): What is your position in your company and what do you do there? What challenges do you face? What accomplishments have you achieved?
John Corbett (JC): I started at Myriax (then SonarData) at the inception of the Eonfusion project. We had six months worth of funding, three inspired people and a bucket full of ideas about how to make spatial data more compelling. At the end of the year we had an industrial strength 4D (X, Y, Z and time) visualization engine up and running, and the two most creative development relationships I’ve known.
Eonfusion has always been a difficult product to describe. It’s a GIS, but it handles 3D, 4D and higher dimensional data. It’s an immersive visualization system, but it has one of the most robust analysis engines in the world. It has rasters that fold back on themselves and vectors that twist and wind through time. As an architect, fitting this many new concepts side by side into a single package is the biggest challenge.
Now that the product has been out in the wilds for several releases, we’re taking time to focus the technology into more specific problem domains, so I’m currently working on modelling the detailed behavior of floodwaters using the marvellous computational power of modern graphics cards.
DM: What was your career path to your current position?
JC: I grew up with a geologist father and a botanist mother and a gift for mathematics. As my parents took me all over the natural places I spent my time imagining how to bridge the gap between the detail and subtlety of the natural world and the coarse and classified world of its digital representation. This inevitably led to a GIS programming role writing air photo interpretation software for the state government and eventually to publishing that work as the Landscape Mapper product. Despite being 15 years old, that package is still used in several large institutions all day, every day for mapping thousands of square kilometres of countryside.
From the state government I transitioned straight into work on Eonfusion, bringing many of the ideas, and indeed code for the product, with me.
DM: What would you like to be doing in your career in 10 years?
JC: For me, the focus will always be on developing the technology. Loving what you are good at and having the opportunity to do it is a real privilege. For every idea that we get the time to implement, there are 20 more that have to be left behind, so we need to make sure we do justice to the ones we choose.
If people are using and enjoying the products that I’ve helped build then I’ll be happy.
DM: What are your personal interests and hobbies?
JC: I enjoy being places that haven’t been tamed yet. My partner and I own a patch of bush where the plants grow as they please and the animals just quietly do their thing. I enjoy watching my young son chase after the wombats and splash in the creeks. I join him chasing the wombats when no one is watching.
Someday soon we’ll start building our robot and I’ll put those 10 years of photogrammetric experience to use in teaching it how to chase the cat.