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Navigation in 3D virtual environments: Effects of user experience and location-pointing navigation aids
Authors: Burigat S., Chittaro L.
Published in: International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, November 2007, Vol. 65, No. 11, pp. 945-958.
Abstract: In this paper, we describe the results of an experimental study whose objective was twofold: (1) comparing three navigation aids that help users perform wayfinding tasks in desktop virtual environments (VEs) by pointing out the location of objects or places; (2) evaluating the effects of user experience with 3D desktop VEs on their effectiveness with the considered navigation aids. In particular, we compared navigation performance (in terms of total time to complete an informed search task) of 48 users divided into two groups: subjects in one group had experience in navigating 3D VEs while subjects in the other group did not. The experiment comprised four conditions that differed for the navigation aid that was employed. The first and the second condition, respectively, exploited 3D and 2D arrows to point towards objects that users had to reach; in the third condition, a radar metaphor was employed to show the location of objects in the VE; the fourth condition was a control condition with no location-pointing navigation aid available. The search task was performed both in a VE representing an outdoor geographic area and in an abstract VE that did not resemble any familiar environment. For each VE, users were also asked to order the four conditions according to their preference. Results show that the navigation aid based on 3D arrows outperformed (both in terms of user performance and user preference) the others, except in the case when it was used by experienced users in the geographic VE. In that case, it was as effective as the others. Finally, in the geographic VE, experienced users took significantly less time than inexperienced users to perform the informed search, while in the abstract VE the difference was significant only in the control and the radar conditions. From a more general perspective, our study highlights the need to take into specific consideration user experience in navigating VEs when designing navigation aids and evaluating their effectiveness.
Copyright: © Elsevier 2007. Elsevier Ltd holds the legal copyright to this work. This is a preprint version of the article.