2016 VAST Challenge: MC1

In this mini-challenge, we are looking for your creative designs for an environment that supports investigative analysis on streaming data. All entries must be submitted by July 14, 2016, by 11:59pm PDT.


The Euybia Island Resort and Conference Center (or Euybia Island) is a convention resort hotel and casino off the coast of the fictional island of Kronos. Euybia Island has a large physical security operations center that maintains safety and security of its patrons. The operations center also monitors the casino for signs of theft and fraud. In this operations center, investigators analyze streaming data to understand data in near real-time.

Your Mission

You are a designer specializing in visual analytics and human-computer interaction. Euybia Island has hired you to design the interactive visual interface to be used by the investigators working in the operations center.

The client tells you that the investigators need an environment that will allow them to analyze streaming data and conduct their investigations as situations unfold. They need an environment that will allow them to “quickly understand new situations, think deeply to develop and test their theories, and rapidly reorient their investigation when data or assumptions change”. Successful designs will provide investigators with the ability to understand current situations as they evolve, look at past data that puts current data in context, and anticipate what might happen next. It will also allow investigators to reconsider recent data in light of new events.

Your task is to create a design that meets this challenge. It should push the current understanding of human and computer interaction and explore new possibilities in visual interface and user experience design. You are free to design the most creative interface that you can imagine. Alternate interaction and display modalities are welcomed. Euybia Island is looking for bold new ideas and want you to take creative risks. You are encouraged to push the boundaries and recommend fundamentally new approaches.

Your client shares the following information to help you with your task.

The Investigator’s Task

You are asked to focus your attention on the needs of the investigators, who are the hotel’s detectives. They look into reports of suspicious activity from the operators and patrol staff. They are also responsible for preparations for VIP guests and for ensuring VIP safety. Investigators work during 8-hour shifts. Normally, three investigators work during day shift, with one investigator on duty during the other two shifts. During very busy time, up to five investigators may work during a shift.

Investigators face the challenge of analyzing streaming data to understand changing conditions and investigate suspicious activities as they occur. Situations can unfold rapidly. The data may appear to support one hypothesis, but further data may invalidate that hypothesis and call on the investigator to develop fundamentally new hypotheses on the fly.

Investigators need a sophisticated visual interface that allows them to perform analysis on streaming data. The investigators want to do the following:
  • Plan routes and security locations for VIP guests.
  • Monitor safety and security as VIPs move from location to location, using a combination of security camera footage and reports from along the route.
  • Search police databases for criminals who appear in the hotel’s security camera footage
  • Investigate potential signs of theft or fraud identified by sophisticated automated image analysis and pattern analysis algorithms
  • Track potentially suspicious events in progress using all available data, which may include security cameras, police records, and the casino’s check-in system.
  • Investigate potential fraud and collusion, which are based on automated analysis of casino transactions as they occur. When potential issues are identified, the investigators must explore the underlying data to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of suspicious activity, and they explore recent video feeds, image databases, and transaction data to determine whether the suspect appears to be working alone or in collusion with others. Investigators are responsible for figuring out whether to take action to stop the fraud immediately or to observe and gather more evidence.
  • Investigate automated reports of indications of potential theft and other criminal activity by hotel and casino personnel. These criminal activities range from pocketing cash to diluting drinks to fraudulent reporting of money received.
  • Lay out their hypotheses about potential suspects and organize evidence that supports or refutes these hypotheses.

Investigators have access to a wide variety of streaming data.
  • Reports from uniformed and plain-clothes security officers moving throughout the hotel and casino
  • News reports about current and planned events
  • Up-to-the-minute weather conditions and forecasts
  • Current police reports of crime in the area
  • Closed-circuit security camera feeds from the hotel, casino, and conference center
  • Financial and game information from the casino to watch for fraud
  • Automated analytics of many types
  • Reports of crowd control issues, overcrowding, fights, and suspicious behavior identified by operators who monitor the closed-circuit cameras.

The investigators share a 12’x20’ room. The investigators have individual desks, each outfitted with three high-resolution displays. Euybia Island tells you that the resort is willing to use the current setup or consider alternatives, including other desktop configurations, wall displays, tablets, and augmented or virtual reality interfaces.

Example: One Difficult Weekend

The client from Euybia Island shares a story to help you understand what he means when he says that investigators must “quickly understand new situations, thinking deeply to develop and test their theories, and rapidly reorient the investigation when data or assumptions change”.

On one busy weekend, Euybia Island is fully booked. On this weekend, two particularly challenging events are going on simultaneously: a large poker tournament in the casino and the Thrasos 2016 hacker convention in the main resort. The poker tournament attracts about 400 participants each year, with family and friends pushing the crowd to nearly 800 people. Almost all of these people are staying at the resort hotel. The physical security team sees a 40% increase in thefts every year during the event, usually due to an influx of small-time criminals drawn to the large amounts of money and the hope that the poker players will be easy victims. The event stretches the security force thin, but it makes an enormous profit for the casino.

This is the first time that a second major event has been held at the same time as the poker tournament. The Thrasos 2016 hacker convention attracts a diverse mix of nearly 1000 hackers and network security specialists. The hotel can accommodate about half of the participants; the rest are staying at area hotels and driving to the resort.

The keynote speaker at Thrasos 2016 is Sven Alzada, a controversial figure in the Kronos government. His popularity in the hacker community is decidedly mixed, with strong supporters and vocal detractors. The Kronos government has threatened that if anything were to go wrong during the event, or if Sven’s safety was jeopardized, Euybia Island could be shut down entirely.

On the day of the keynote presentation, hotel investigators have planned a safe route for Sven through the hotel to the conference room. As he is en route from his suite to the conference venue, the investigator in charge receives an alert. A credible threat has been received against Sven. No source of the threat has been confirmed, but it is believed to have come from the Protectors of Kronos (POK), a group who has previously resorted to kidnapping.

An investigator searches for signs of suspicious activity in the group surrounding Sven. Automated processing on the closed-circuit camera footage identifies a potential match between a member of Sven’s entourage and known POK kidnapper Isia Vann.

In the meantime, reports of a major altercation in the casino have been received. A second investigator switches his attention from Sven to the event in the casino. Searches of databases and image analysis identify three men fighting. Two of the three men are participants in the poker tournament. The third man is unknown and unregistered. The investigator assumes the third man is the instigator. One of the poker players involved in the fight breaks into a run and leaves the casino, heading for the conference facility.

As Sven continues to walk toward the conference venue, a group of thirty or more followers surrounds him. As they walk for the next fifty yards through a sunny outdoor courtyard, a clearer image of the potential suspect is captured sent to the police database a second time. The individual is no longer identified as known POK kidnapper Isia Vann.

This leaves the investigator in a quandary. If this individual is not the suspect, then is it possible that one of the others in the crowd is a suspect? The investigator reassesses the recent data to see if there are other suspects he missed. He spots a man looking harried, running to catch up with the crowd. He also identifies two other people looking out of place – nervous, uncomfortable, too warmly dressed for the hot day on Kronos.

Not wanting to be caught off guard again, he identifies these three potential suspects. While he watches Sven’s walk to the venue, he also searches for the identities of these potential suspects and looks for anything that could help him further narrow down suspicion.

The database returns an urgent alert that one of the men was just involved in the altercation in the casino. The casino records identify this man as Jobie Arlund. Police records indicate that he has a history of violent crime.

The investigator radios to plain-clothes officers to stop this man. Jobie Arlund is apprehended just as he is reaching for his weapon.

Download the Submission Form

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Excerpts from the Euybia Island Resort and Conference Center Web Site

2016 MC1 Submission Instructions

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Page last modified on Wednesday, July 13, 2016