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Navigation in the Real World and in Virtual Worlds

PhD-thesis of Dirk Wenig (2015)

Navigation is movement through an environment and involves locomotion and wayfinding in varying degrees. This applies to navigation in the real world as well as to navigation in virtual worlds. The requirements on user interfaces for real-world-navigation and virtual-world-navigation are similar but differ in priorities. For navigation in the real world, the most important aspect is usually to reach a destination as fast as possible without getting lost. For navigation in virtual worlds, the user experience is the central requirement, with a focus on entertainment for navigation in games.

This work aims at taking advantage of modern input technology to design natural and intuitive interaction concepts for navigation in the real world and navigation in virtual worlds. It explores motion-based navigation interfaces for mobile devices through three studies in the field of pedestrian navigation and two studies in the area of games. The results show that both real-world-navigation and virtual-world-navigation can benefit, but that motion-based interfaces have to be very carefully designed. Ambiguous feedback suggests to allow the user to switch between different interaction techniques.

In the field of pedestrian navigation, studies have shown advantages of image-based approaches. Panoramic photographs take it to the next level and offer contextual information. The research in the present dissertation explores the benefits of panoramas over simple photographs. Through two users studies in a realistic pedestrian navigation scenario, it shows that pedestrians clearly benefit from contextual information provided by panoramic images when navigating – regardless of whether they are combined with a map or not.

In the future navigation is expected to play an important role in the day-to-day use of smartwatches. Map apps for smartwatches present new challenges in cartography, a domain in which large display sizes have significant advantages. This work presents a novel cartographic approach that adapts the mobile web design technique of linearization to display maps on small screens. It transforms any two-dimensional route map into a one-dimensional “stripe”. The results of a user study show that this simplification approach outperforms both traditional mobile map interfaces and turn-by-turn directions for pedestrian navigation using smartwatches.

Mobile interaction concepts for virtual exploration and games are challenging. Due to the lack of input devices, most of the interaction has to be realized on small sized touch screens. This work presents a novel control concept for virtual exploration and mobile games by integrating a physical pitch gesture and touch interaction. It uses a different meaning of touch depending on the device’s orientation and a corresponding view in the virtual world. Through a user study the work demonstrates, that users understand and are able to employ interfaces based on a different meaning of touch and do not have any problem with switching between different input mappings.

In the area of games, where fun and the emotional experience are often more important than pure efficiency, it is important to investigate trade-offs between different input technologies. The research in the present dissertation investigates the importance of user experience and subjective efficiency. The results of two studies in the context of mobile gaming are ambiguous. While in one study the players preferred simple touch and motion-based interaction over more efficient software buttons, in another study the players preferred a virtual joystick over more intuitive alternatives because it is well-known, simple and precise.

Keywords: mobile human-computer interaction (mobile HCI), pedestrian navigation, virtual exploration, mobile games, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR)

Thesis online