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The Effect of Abstract vs. Realistic 3D Visualization on Landmark and Route Knowledge Acquisition (Short Paper)

Authors Armand Kapaj , Enru Lin , Sara Lanini-Maggi

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Author Details

Armand Kapaj
  • Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Enru Lin
  • Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Sara Lanini-Maggi
  • Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Digital Society Initiative, University of Zurich, Switzerland


The authors thank Bingjie Cheng, Ian T. Ruginski for their comments on experimental design, and Sara I. Fabrikant for her supervision on this research project.

Cite AsGet BibTex

Armand Kapaj, Enru Lin, and Sara Lanini-Maggi. The Effect of Abstract vs. Realistic 3D Visualization on Landmark and Route Knowledge Acquisition (Short Paper). In 15th International Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2022). Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), Volume 240, pp. 15:1-15:8, Schloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2022)


Even though humans perform it daily, navigation is a cognitively challenging process. Landmarks have been shown to facilitate navigation by scaffolding humans’ mental representation of space. However, how landmarks can be effectively communicated to pedestrians to support spatial learning of the traversed environment remains an open question. Therefore, we assessed how the visualization of landmarks on a mobile map (i.e., abstract 3D vs. realistic 3D symbols) influences participants’ spatial learning, visual attention allocation, and cognitive load during an outdoor map-assisted navigation task. We report initial results on how exposing pedestrians to different landmark visualization styles on mobile maps while navigating along a given route in an urban environment can have differing effects on how they remember landmarks and routes. Specifically, we find that navigators better remember landmarks visualized as 3D realistic-looking symbols compared to 3D abstract landmark symbols on the mobile map. The pattern of results shows that displaying realistic 3D landmark symbols at intersections potentially helps participants to remember route directions better than with landmarks depicted as abstract 3D symbols. The presented methodological approach contributes ecologically valid insights to further understand how the design of landmarks on mobile maps could support wayfinders' spatial learning during map-assisted navigation.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Information systems → Geographic information systems
  • Applied computing → Cartography
  • Human-centered computing → Empirical studies in visualization
  • Abstraction
  • realism
  • 3D
  • landmark visualization
  • mobile map design
  • cartography
  • real-world navigation
  • spatial learning


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