Navigation in virtual 3D-Environments

3D environments account already for a large portion of user interfaces in e.g. World Wide Web, game industry, architecture, tourism industry as well as within the scientific area of visualization and simulation. In many cases existing virtual 3D-environments indicate however a usability lack, which can be often attributed to a not intuitive and misleading navigational techniques. Not intuitive and/or misleading navigation techniques do not cause at least to frustration but also to irreparable errors of the user. Therefore the development of efficient navigation concepts for virtual 3D-environment becomes ever more important.

In the last few years, different individual aspects of navigation in a virtual environment have been considered. To summarise this work, whilst at the same time taking account of the work of Jul and Furnas [3], as well as Domik and Gutkauf [1, 2], in the field of visualisation, it has been shown that effective navigation in a virtual 3D environment within an application area depends on a combination of characteristics stemming from the following six factors:

  • environment
  • user
  • task
  • navigation strategy
  • navigation aid
  • motion control
The virtual environment is classified by e.g. display mode, topic, degree of abstraction for representation, size, density, activity and Single-User, Multi-User Environment. The user defines the user characteristics, experiences, knowledge, abilities and disabilities. The task specify the problem (with primary or secondary navigation task) a user would like to solve in the environment. Navigation strategies are concepts and strategies people use to navigate (with subtasks movement, wayfinding, ’spatial orientation’) through an environment. Navigation aids are aids for determining direction and/or position. They can be both part of the environment as well as consisting of external objects. And finaly the motion control specifies control of movement through an virtual environment. It includes an input device, a software support for movement assistance (motion aids) as well as the interaction or motion techniques.
A more detailed description of this model describing navigation with its influencing factors and their interdependencies can be found in [4].
For further development and validation of the model we used the 'Citygame' [5]. The 'City Game' was an interdisciplinary project together with a research group specializing in didactics of mathematics (Dr. Dorothea Backe-Neuwald and Prof. Dr. Rinkens).



Domik, G.: Computer Visualization - Concepts, Trends and Current Research, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1175,
SOFSEM '96: Theory and Practice of Informatics, pp 178-190, Springer Verlag 1996.


Domik, G, Gutkauf, B.: User Modeling for Adaptive Visualization Systems, Proc. of  IEEE Visualization '94, S. 217-223, 1994.


Jul, S. and Furnas, G.W.: Navigation in Electronic Worlds, Sigchi Bulletin, Vol. 29, No. 4, A CHI 97 Workshop, October 1997.


Volbracht, S., Domik, G.: Developing Effective Navigation Techniques in Virtual 3D Environments,
In: J.D. Mulder, R. van Liere (Eds.): Virtual Environments 2000, Proceedings of the Eurographics Workshop
in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, June 1-2, 2000, Springer-Verlag Wien New York, pp.55-64, 2000.


Volbracht, S., Domik, G., Backe-Neuwald, D., Rinkens, H.-D.:
The 'City Game' An Example of a Virtual Environment for Teaching Spatial Orientation,
Journal of Universal Computer Science (J. UCS), Vol. 4, No.4, Springer Science Online, 1998.

Imprint | Webmaster | Recent changes: 16.10.2013