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the user assists in the construction of a cognitive map. Setting up this cognitive
map can be very difficult if the techniques of movement in the virtual environment
are not directly derived from the real world.
Multi-sensory indices. The interfaces of virtual reality are largely oriented to the
vision of the observer. However, several non-visual indices help us in our wayfind-
ing tasks in the real world. For example, the smell of the sea or the perception of
a sea breeze are indices that let us locate ourselves close to a coastal area. These
multi-sensory indices are not frequently used in virtual reality. There are exam-
ples of multi-sensory integration in the field of VR applications for cognitive and
behavioural disorders.
We have seen that several factors linked to characteristics of the virtual world can
make wayfinding processes harder in a virtual environment than in a real environment.
We will now see how it is possible to help users in their wayfinding tasks in a virtual
environment.
12.3.3.2 Copying the real world
Structure of virtual environments
Wayfinding requires cognitive efforts to locate oneself in the environment and to
decide paths to be taken. These efforts will be less if the environment is structured
(Freska, 1999). Primarily, the construction of virtual environments based on the struc-
ture of elements of the real world lets observers benefit from the experience that
they have acquired in the real world. For example, in the case of urban environ-
ments, several authors, of which, Darken and Sibert (1993) recommend using the
theory of city of Lynch. Through his book, “the image of the city" (Lynch, 1960),
Lynch has studied the structural elements of the city. He has identified five major
elements:
Paths : waterways, streets, railroads. Paths must have good spatial continuity and
good directional clarity to be functional. Their physical properties (narrowness,
breadth, appearance of facades) are factors for identification.
Edges : linear elements that are not used like boundaries, shorelines or railroad
cuts. Their role is to support all the zones. The strongest edges are those that are
impenetrable, that are not hidden and have a visible continuous form.
Districts : relatively large sections of a city where an observer can enter. They are
recognizable internally and externally and have a general character and physical
characteristics which makes them identifiable.
Nodes : strategic spots into which an observer can enter and which are intensive
foci to and from which he is travelling. They are primary junctions between two
transport systems or gathering places (railway stations, airports).
Landmarks : localised references, physically unusual, where the observer does not
enter and are simply defined physical objects: building, sign boards, store or set-
ups. They are variable depending on the observers.
Beyond urban environments, emphasizing these structural elements helps wayfinding
in virtual environments. Figure 12.8 illustrates these different elements in case of a city.
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