Three-dimensional interactive maps - theory and practice

  • Rafał Góralski

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Maps are among the oldest and the most popular forms of graphical communication, which have always been highly regarded for high efficiency of information transfer. Regardless of how efficient twodimensional maps are, three-dimensional interactive maps offer significant improvements and benefits over their traditional counterparts. While the enabling technologies for three-dimensional (3D) mapping have been ready for some time, and the benefits are significant, one might expect that a wide adoption of threedimensional maps should already be happening. However, for some reason, the transition to 3D cartography is not happening as quickly and effectively, as would be allowed by the technological and social conditioning.

    In this work we discuss three-dimensional interactive maps in depth from both the theoretical and practical perspective, as well as show the benefits for a number of applications, and identify some of the factors that inhibit their popularization. We define 3D maps and threedimensional cartography, and discuss its relations with the broader discipline of geovisualization. We demonstrate that more 3D cartographic research would benefit users of maps, as well as those of GIS and geovisualization products.

    Three-dimensional maps are such a broad subject, and they
    encompass so many different things, that hard definitions are difficult. That is why we use a technical description and propose a set of functional factors that differentiate, describe and define threedimensional maps, instead of trying to provide a single narrow definition. We also discuss and validate various cartographic, functional, practical and technical aspects of three-dimensional maps, by a practical exercise of implementation of a 3D mapping platform.

    The platform developed, called the 3D Map Viewer, is used to demonstrate the usefulness of 3D maps, and discuss a number of
    applications where they offer benefits over the existing approaches. By applying our platform to different tasks we also prove that efficient 3D mapping products may be built today, without a need for further technological progress.

    We believe that the adoption of 3D cartography would benefit a widerange of users, and that it has a potential to stimulate progress in numerous disciplines of business, life and science. It is our objective to contribute to widespread recognition of three-dimensional maps’ usefulness, and to adhere to their continued development and popularization.
    Date of AwardAug 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGary Higgs (Supervisor) & Christopher Gold (Supervisor)


    • digital mapping

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