ON THE USABILITY AND USEFULNESS OF 3D (GEO)VISUALIZATIONS – A FOCUS ON VIRTUAL REALITY ENVIRONMENTS
Keywords: 3D visualization, virtual reality, geovisualization, perception, cognition, human factors, user studies
Abstract. Whether and when should we show data in 3D is an on-going debate in communities conducting visualization research. A strong opposition exists in the information visualization (Infovis) community, and seemingly unnecessary/unwarranted use of 3D, e.g., in plots, bar or pie charts, is heavily criticized. The scientific visualization (Scivis) community, on the other hand, is more supportive of the use of 3D as it allows ‘seeing’ invisible phenomena, or designing and printing things that are used in e.g., surgeries, educational settings etc. Geographic visualization (Geovis) stands between the Infovis and Scivis communities. In geographic information science, most visuo-spatial analyses have been sufficiently conducted in 2D or 2.5D, including analyses related to terrain and much of the urban phenomena. On the other hand, there has always been a strong interest in 3D, with similar motivations as in Scivis community. Among many types of 3D visualizations, a popular one that is exploited both for visual analysis and visualization is the highly realistic (geo)virtual environments. Such environments may be engaging and memorable for the viewers because they offer highly immersive experiences. However, it is not yet well-established if we should opt to show the data in 3D; and if yes, a) what type of 3D we should use, b) for what task types, and c) for whom. In this paper, we identify some of the central arguments for and against the use of 3D visualizations around these three considerations in a concise interdisciplinary literature review.