Thoughts on Slocum et al

Reading about “current” and anticipated issues in geovisualization from sixteen years ago is quite interesting. Perspectives on many of these issues would be quite different with the technologies that exist today. The replacement of CRT monitors with liquid crystal display, the affordability of desktop and laptop computers with several times more RAM, and the proliferation of web-based slippy maps are all advancements that have improved the usability and access to digital maps. The article dwells on 3D GeoVEs as a proper method for disseminating geospatial information. 3D rendering has improved since 2001, and Google Earth has become an accessible resource for viewing most of the world’s cities in 3D.
Slocum et al sees “VE to be a technology with considerable potential for extending the power of geovisualization”. Despite focusing on GeoVE technology for most of the article, in the summary it is realized that “research is still necessary in more traditional desktop environments”. The article seems to be partially aware of the trajectory of internet technologies in geospatial data management. They see potential in collaboration via the internet, which has proven a relevant reality.
Mobile computing is only mentioned once, but I would argue has become the primary mode of everyday geovisualization. Map applications such as Google Maps and Apple Maps have become the standard way of viewing a flat world. 2.5D visualization is employed for features such as 3D buildings, and street-view imagery has made non-immersive 3D imagery accessible to desktop and mobile internet users. A street-level virtual tour of LA would certainly be more stimulating in a GeoVE with speech and body movement interactivity, but is now as easily accomplished in a web browser.
I disagree with the authors’ view of GeoVEs as an accessible or useful resource for education and decision-making. Immersive visualization is a now emerging technology for VR video games, but has seen less use as an educational tool. AR has also become increasingly accessible with the ability to use smartphones as AR and VR devices. The relevant research from this article pertains to the usability issues experiences by those with cognitive impairments. These will continue to be an issue as geovisualization technologies evolve, and solutions will likely come from “real-world” applications of geovisualization technologies.

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