THE VIRTUAL TOURIST: COGNITIVE STRATEGIES AND DIFFERENCES IN NAVIGATION AND MAP USE WHILE EXPLORING AN MAGINARY CITY
Keywords: Spatial Cognition, Virtual Environment, Navigation, Cartography, Visualization, Eye Tracking
Abstract. This paper, submitted for the Workshop/Theme session on Virtual & Augmented Reality: Technology, Design & Human Factors, organized by ISPRS Working Group IV/9, explores the research field opened by experiments in virtual environments from multidisciplinary approach. At the recently established Cognitive Cartography Lab, Eötvös University, Budapest we designed an experiment to study and better understand the role of visuospatial displays in spatial cognition, in particular the cognitive conditions of navigation in an imaginary city with a map. Below we present some preliminary results based on our experiments recording the spatial behaviour of 62 subjects, including their verbal reactions and eye tracking data collected during the sessions. We measured the wayfinding behaviour of participants after an active or passive learning phase. The analysis of the accumulated data suggested no significant differences in the efficiency of spatial problem solving between the groups of subjects. For further investigation we found that – although salient visual cues grasped the attention of the participants – they could not benefit from this knowledge of landmarks in the actual navigational tasks. Despite the lack of group differences, the low number of getting lost in such complex, large-scale virtual environment suggests that participants could solve the navigational tasks rather efficiently, most probably due to using different cognitive strategies. The project was part of an educational development plan and was supported by the Student Talent Grant of Eötvös University. It was designed by a multidisciplinary research group including university students and offered them the opportunity to collaborate, cross disciplinary borders and develop their profile when contributing to front-line scientific research.