The visualization of socio-economic GIS data using virtual reality tools

David Martin*, Gary Higgs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This paper addresses two issues: the use of 'realistic' environments for the visualization of socio-economic data, and the use of virtual reality tools for the exploration of data from existing GIS databases. 'Realistic' is here used in a narrow sense to imply the reconstruction of real-world scenes in which major components of the physical environment are reconstructed to facilitate geographical visualization. A review of visualization techniques for geographically-referenced 3-D data is presented, and the translation of an existing urban GIS database into virtual reality modelling language (VRML) demonstrated for a study area in Cardiff, UK. This work shows that the export of conventional 2-D GIS data into virtual reality toolkits can be relatively straightforward, and offers exciting new avenues for visualization and exploration. We argue that some of the parameters of the true scene such as colour, building shape, and texture may be directly modified in order to represent otherwise unobservable socio-economic characteristics, in the spirit of exploratory data analysis. These issues are of particular importance in the context of current advances towards the dynamic linkage of GIS and virtual reality modelling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-266
Number of pages12
JournalTransactions in GIS
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1997
Externally publishedYes


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