Abstract: Despite the now-ubiquitous two-dimensional (2D) electronic maps, three-dimensional (3D) globe viewers, or 3D geo-browsers such as Google Earth and NASA World Wind have gained much attention. However, the effect of such interactive 3D geo-browsers on spatial knowledge acquisition and decision making is not well known. This study aims to explore the potential benefits of using interactive 3D geo-browsers in three processes of pedestrian navigation (self-localization, spatial knowledge acquisition, and decision making) in digital environments. We employed eye tracking to show differences of visual attention in pedestrian navigation between a 2D map (Google Map) and a 3D geo-browser (Google Earth). The results indicated that benefits and drawbacks of 3D representations are task-dependent. Participants using the 3D geo-browser had an extensively visual search resulting in significantly longer response time than the 2D participants for spatial knowledge acquisition, whereas 3D users performed a more efficient visual search and resulted in a better navigation performance at complex decision points. We speculate that the inefficient knowledge acquisition when using the 3D geo-browser was most probably due to information overload and obstructed views. Landmarks in photorealistic 3D models assisted recall of spatial knowledge from mental maps, which contributed to efficient decision making at a complex turning point. These empirical results can be helpful to improve the usability of pedestrian navigation systems.
Cite this paper: Liao, H., Dong, W., Peng, C., & Liu, H. (2016). Exploring differences of visual attention in pedestrian navigation when using 2D maps and 3D geo-browsers. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 1-17. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15230406.2016.1174886