Usability of Online Virtual Geographic Environment for Urban Design
Collaborative Virtual Geographic Environment (CVGE), a technology derived from Virtual Reality (VR), is today becoming widely and freely available. This technology has potential for use in the field of 3D urban planning and design. An example is the online tool OpenSimulator. Rigorous assessment of the usability of such tools is needed to determine their impact on the field of urban design. A previous study consulted with a small group of urban design professionals and concluded from a user satisfaction and usability standpoint that online VR had potential value as a 3D collaboration, remote communication and marketing tool. However, visual quality and geographic accuracy of the technology are downsides that need to be overcome. This research takes the investigation a step further than the previous study to also examine the usability aspects of efficiency (how quickly tasks are completed) and effectiveness (how successfully tasks are completed), relating to CVGE used in the design process. The comparative study tests a CVGE (with increased graphic fidelity and geographic content to address the feedback of the previous study) of a subdivision design in a suburb of Dunedin, New Zealand, against 3D models built with a Geographic Information System (GIS – ArcGIS) and Computer Aided Design (CAD – BricsCAD) tools, two types of software that are already widely adopted and well established in urban design professional practice. This research collected and analysed the experiences and results from 16 urban design professionals and students who attempted to perform timed tasks correctly in each of the environments, before being asked questions about the technologies involved and the importance they perceive the technologies to have to their professional work. The results support and reinforce the feedback for VR from the previous study, with the graphical and geographic data issues being somewhat addressed and a number of new issues identified which also require further refinement of the technology to suit the application. Ease-of-use, and the associated fastest speed of completion of tasks, were significant outcomes to emerge from the comparison with GIS and CAD, and the results point to the likely level of integration of CVGE technology in an urban planning and design context in the future.
Advisor: Moore, Antoni
Degree Name: Master of Applied Science
Degree Discipline: School of Surveying
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Usability; Urban Design; Virtual Geographic Environment; Virtual Reality; Virtual Environment; 3D; Collaborative
Research Type: Thesis