How do users interact with Virtual Geographic Environments? Users’ behavior evaluation in urban participatory planning
Keywords: Virtual Geographic Environments, 3D geovisualization, strategic behavior, user interactions, participatory urban planning
Abstract. For the past twenty years, the adoption of Virtual Geographic Environments is thriving. This democratization is due to numerous new opportunities offered by this medium. However, in participatory urban planning these interactive 3D geovisualizations are still labeled as very advanced means, and are only scarcely used. The involvement of citizens in urban decision-making is indeed carefully planned ahead to limit off-topic feedback. A better comprehension of Virtual Geographic Environments, and more specifically of users’ strategic behaviors while interacting with this medium could enhance participants’ contributions. The users’ strategic behavior was assessed in this article through an experimental study. A total of 107 participants completed online tasks about the identification of 3D scenes’ footprints, the comparison of buildings’ heights, and the visibility of objects through the scenes. The interactions of the participants were recorded (i.e. pressed keys, pointing device interactions), as well as the camera positions adopted to complete specific tasks. The results show that: (1) users get more efficient throughout the study; (2) interruptions in 3D manipulation appear to highlight difficulties in interacting with the virtual environments; (3) users tend to centralize their positions within the scene, notably around their starting position; (4) the type of task strongly affects the behavior of users, limiting or broadening their explorations. The results of this experimental study are a valuable resource that can be used to improve the design of future urban planning projects involving Virtual Geographic Environments, e.g. with the creation of personalized 3D tools.