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Visualization Environments

Show and Tell

Problems and Solutions

Pyramid Exercise


Visualisation in the Social Sciences Workshop

Show and Tell

Kate Moore

Urban modelling with VRML/Java

This graphic is a composite of software currently under development. It shows an interface for interactively creating VRML urban models from 2D building plans and user input of land use by floor for each building.
The VRML model is georeferenced for subsequent tracking on a map interface and external spatial database linking. The small Java interface on lower left  switches colours on/off and provides a key for colour values.

Animation surfaces are also planned to display pedestrian space-time movements through the street scene (not shown here but hopefully available for the workshop!)

The research/teaching problem it addresses

The software is being developed in conjunction with the Virtual Field Course (VFC) project to provide IT support for fieldwork teaching. Visualisation and virtual reality are being seen as key components for integration into this teaching format.

This example focuses on a specific fieldwork project where students survey land use and pedestrian movements within the urban environment.

Land use mapping has previously been undertaken on a 2D map basis which is highly inappropriate for the essentially 3 dimensional character of towns and cities.

Pedestrian counts are recorded at street level only. Again students normally only have the facilities for producing static representations for this essentially dynamic event.

How it helps solve the problem

Virtual reality provides new dynamic, interactive methods for visualisation in 3 dimensional space.
The urban model is constructed as a 3D thematic representation that can more accurately help to visualise the functional characteristics of the urban scene. Users can move freely through this new representation of reality and view it from any angle.

Students gain a greater engagement in the fieldwork project from construction of the model and subsequent interaction. The full model may be constructed by combining component parts produced by individuals which establishes a degree of collaboration in the project. A fuller interpretation of urban structure can be gained from the model through analysis of the 3rd dimensional component.

Space-time simulations can give a deeper understanding of social patterns and the dynamics involved. Using VRML animation students can identify the spatial properties of the city business district and the relationships between the CBD and human movement through time.

The ability to visualise and interrogate spatial movement within VR offers a new thread of research into the patterns of population dynamics within the urban environment. Potential applications include retail and advertising site analysis and urban planning.

Tools used in its creation.

Virtual reality models are built interactively using the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) in conjunction with the Java programming language through the External Authoring Interface (EAI).

The VRML model runs in EAI compatible VRML plugins (CosmoPlayer, WorldView) for standard web browsers: Internet Explorer or Netscape.

2D plans are imported from Arc ungenerate format.

Contact Details

Kate Moore
Department of Geography
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH

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