The relationship between wayfinding performance, spatial layout and landmarks in virtual environments

Yesiltepe, Demet (2021) The relationship between wayfinding performance, spatial layout and landmarks in virtual environments. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Environmental factors, including landmarks that affect people’s wayfinding performance in unfamiliar environments have been discussed in a great number of studies. However, there is still no consensus on the factors that shape people’s performance or what makes a landmark preferable during wayfinding. Hence, this study aims to understand the impact of different spatial layouts, environmental conditions and landmarks on people’s wayfinding performance, and the factors that make landmarks salient.

Sea Hero Quest (SHQ), an online game that has been played by more than 4.3 million people from 2016 to date, is selected as a case study to investigate the impact of different environments and other factors, in particular landmarks. Forty-five wayfinding levels of SHQ are analysed and compared using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Space syntax axial, segment and visibility graph analyses. A cluster analysis is conducted to examine the relationship between levels. Varying conditions associated with landmarks, weather and maps were taken into consideration. In order to investigate the process of selecting landmarks, visual, structural (whether landmarks are global or local) and cognitive saliency are analysed using web-based surveys, saliency algorithms and the visibility of landmarks.

Results of this study show that the complexity of layouts plays a major role in wayfinding; as the complexity of layout increases, so does the time taken to complete the wayfinding task. Similarly, the weather condition has an effect; as the weather becomes foggy and visibility decreases, the time taken to complete the wayfinding task increases. It is discovered that landmarks that are visible for more than 25% of a journey can be defined as global landmarks whereas the rest can be defined as local landmarks. Findings also show that landmarks that are visually salient (objects with a unique colour and size) and structurally salient (objects that are closer to people) are registered more by people in unfamiliar environments.

This study contributes to the existing literature by exploring the factors that affect people’s wayfinding performance by using the largest dataset in the field (so providing more accurate results), focusing on 45 different layouts (while current research studies mostly focus on one or two different layouts), by proposing a threshold to distinguish global and local landmarks, and analysing visual, structural and cognitive saliency through various measures.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sea Hero Quest, Space Syntax, spatial knowledge, spatial navigation, landmark saliency
Subjects: H400 Aerospace Engineering
H500 Naval Architecture
H600 Electronic and Electrical Engineering
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Architecture and Built Environment
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2021 15:14
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2022 08:01

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