Today a wide variety of virtual worlds, cities and gaming environments exist and become part of life of their human inhabitants (Borner et al 2005). Navigation is playing an increasingly important role in virtual environments (VE). Today virtual worlds are very large and present challenging navigation tasks. According to MacEachren et al (1999), virtual environment (VE) technologies have considerable potential to extend the power of information visualization methods, and those of scientific visualization more broadly.
Ruddle (1996) assertion of “one in three people get lost in virtual environment” is true due to lack of knowledge but is possible to roam and explore these geographic environments. Previous work have been done to develop tools that generate visualisations of user and environment interaction for social navigation, monitor, study, and research virtual worlds and their evolving landscapes. Visualization and navigation in virtual environments
The geovisualization of virtual environments use of 3D display and thus has the potential to depict the three geographic dimensions of real spaces with each dimension of the display space depicting a geographic dimension (MacEachren et al, 1999). There is progress and developments in research and applications in this field. A lot has been developed, for example, Lahav and Mioduser (2003) developed and researched a multisensory virtual environment simulating spaces in real-life. Chen and Stanney (1999) came up with theoretical models of wayfinding, used to guide the design of navigational aiding in virtual environments.
Galyean (2006) immersed VR experience with the advantages of narrative structure to allow smooth and continuous interaction and presentation with the structural and temporal qualities. Ruddle et al (1997). Tsai-Yen Li et al (2008) also developed a real-time camera control module for navigation in virtual environments. The wayfinding process has embraced cognitive mapping, wayfinding plan development, and physical movement or navigation through a virtual environment. Virtual environment navigation has evolved drastically from archaic to post-modern tools.
There have been developments in virtual simulation of urban and rural environments using both traditional cartographic methods and modern geo-information technologies such as Google earth and fly-through movies. The recent developments in the use of satellite imagery, Digital Elevation Models and Aerial Photographs have led to new lead large scale movies and virtual reality navigation processes. The coming of these 3D geographic information systems (GIS) is fundamental for synoptic vie and virtual terrain recognition.
Augmented reality as part of emerging concept allows live direct view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified and its augmentation is conventionally in semantic context with environmental elements. A Virtual Geographic Environment (VGE) is a multi-user shared, intelligent, virtual environment representing the real geographic environment to conduct geospatial analysis, carry our geovisualization, to support collaborative work, planning and decision making.
According to Hui and Zhu (2004), virtual geographic environments consist of five types of space, namely; geographic data spaces, network spaces, multidimensional presentation spaces, social spaces and sensory/perceptual spaces. These virtual spaces make VGE different from the traditional virtual reality space associated with unrealistic expectations. VGE is equated with reality by making the spaces continuous and coextensive. Nguyen et al (2009) carried out various experiments to investigate effects of scale changes on distance perception in virtual environments.
The rural and natural environments basically involved use of existing natural linear features and landmarks such as roads, cliffs and rivers to navigate. The new paradigm shifts (Joseph et al 2001), have tremendously tacked the issue of scale especially on global views. The traditional experiences were profound and thus these new innovations have proved successful. For example, Vinson (1999) designed guidelines to ease navigation in large-scale virtual environments. The guidelines focus on the design and placement of landmarks in virtual environments.
The distinct features and landmarks represented various areas like buildings, petrol stations and corners to direct the navigation process along a designated navigation route. This limits the audience’s movement through the space to interesting and compelling paths. According to Ruddle (1996), examples of interface fidelity include the lack of physical movement that is required to travel around VEs and the impoverished field of view. Important factors of environment fidelity and precision include the amount of visual detail and the omission of non-visual sensory information.
The virtual reality world has become interested in large scale spatial cognitive simulation. This takes a role of an environment’s physical form and how the design of a setting shapes the spatial behavior and cognition of its users. It largely puts into consideration numerous forms of spatial information: real-world environments, virtual environments, maps, route directions, gestures, and both written and spoken descriptions (Mekni and Moulin Mekni (2008).
Sensor Webs are deployed in large scale geographic environments for in-situ sensing and data acquisition purposes, a perfect example of a dramatic solution to large scale simulation and virtual reality representation. Conclusion Advances in human-computer interaction have created completely new paradigms shifts for exploring and presentation spatial information in a virtual environment, with flexible user control. Hence, more intuitive and efficient interactive visualization environments become increasingly significant for the visual exploration of large amounts of extensive spatio-temporal information both at small scale and large scale.
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