Good news: Summer Intern wanted and Open sourcing code


14-01-2010 09:52:16

I've got some good news for the Mogre community:

I work for Ocado, the UK based online only supermarket. We were one of the first online supermarkets, and almost certainly are the most technically advanced in the world - we have a centralised distribution model and a lot of automation, I believe we're more automated than Amazon for instance. I use Mogre to visualise the workings of our complex warehouse where all the food is put in bags for distribution to all our customers. Given we're in the business of selling food and high-tech distribution centres rather than graphics libraries, I asked if I could open source appropriate parts of my code... and they said yes : ) I'll release any code under an MIT license, unless anyone has other suggestions.

In practice, I expect this will mean a few contributions to add some more advanced controls to Miyagi (I've got a table control that could be donated soon). I also have something to animate the camera between parts of the scene, which you configure while using your Mogre program and then can save / load from an XML file. Both of the table control and the camera animation need a bit of work to fix a few rough edges, but I'm currently using them. See attached for a screenshot of the camera animations in a table.

We are also going to be looking for an intern this summer to help on my project. We haven't released the advert yet, but I expect a successful applicant will have at least 3 As at A-level and be expecting a 2.1 or 1st from a top university (approximately one of the top ten UK Universities). Experience with Mogre and C# would be a great plus, but we're not expecting an intern to necessarily be an expert! We're based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire close to London. Contact me if you're interested.


15-01-2010 23:14:13

Hey these are great news, keep us posted on your project!

But I don't quite understand how you are utilizing 3D features, can you post more "3D enabled" pics or a youtube video maybe ? (Just curious :))


17-01-2010 16:40:37

Obviously, there are some commercially sensitive aspects to the project, however, there is an amount on the internet about Ocado already, so I can show some elements of it.

If you want to understand some of the eventual complexity, look at: What you'll see is a big, complex warehouse with a lot moving around, and it's hard to to see where things are going, and to track them over long distances. For instance, the video says there are 9 miles (>14km) of conveyor that the shopping baskets travel on. This conveyor moves between floors, joins divides etc. The visualisation part of my project is to allow someone to easily see what's going on in the warehouse, whether the data is from the real warehouse or a simulation of the warehouse. The other side of my project is storing information about virtually anything in the warehouse, so it could extend from conveyors to the electric motors, office space and so on - and allowing it to be found in the 3D world. Things will be added to the 3D world with a combination of drag-and-drop as well as entering data in forms.


The screenshot shows a small part of the warehouse, which is equivalent to the part shown about 4:20-6:10mins through the video, but it shows three aisles and hides some of the complexity that we're not interested at the moment (the food!). In the real warehouse, you can't see more than one aisle at a time. People move around the screen picking up the (invisible) food and putting it into shopping baskets at the stations with the white screens. The shopping baskets move on the conveyors and have a white plane in them that raises up as food is put in them.

Part of the interest of the project is that the eventual users will be a mix of very technical and totally non-technical people: Engineers who design the layout of the warehouse; software developers working on artificial intelligence algorithms; new starters trying to understand it from the first time; and investors who are looking to be impressed. So there's an art to showing a lot of information without making it looking complex. This is where the 3D is great. Anybody can look at it to see that the person in pink is walking, but some of the other people are doing nothing. There aren't any icons, keys etc that you need to learn to understand that.

Some more links for the curious that show some of the commercial-off-the-shelf options: - click on the "Plant Design and Optimization"

For a bit of technical background about the screenshot:
-The GUI on the left is Miyagi.
-The people were modeled in blender and are based on, and use skeletal animation.
-The big numbers are billboards (so they always face the viewer)
-The frame rate is CPU constrained due to the batch count - too many shopping baskets that move around, so the plan is to move some of the animation to the GPU. This isn't a Mogre specific issue.
-The detail of the conveyors, some of which is hard to see, is not a constraint on the frame rate.