Tuesday 12pm, 17 March 2015


Lightweight Interactions for Enhanced Terrain Perception on Interactive Maps

Wes Willett

Assistant Professor - University of Calgary


Reading and interpreting topography and relief on terrain maps is an important aspect of map use, but extracting depth information from 2D maps is notoriously difficult. Modern mapping software attempts to alleviate this limitation by presenting digital terrain using 3D views. However, 3D views introduce occlusion, complicate distance estimations, and typically require more complex interactions. We explore interactive relief shearing, a set of non-intrusive, direct manipulation interactions that expose depth and shape information in terrain maps using ephemeral animations. Our approach reveals depth information via shearing animations on 2D maps, and can be paired with existing interactions such as pan and zoom. We examine explicit, integrated, and hybrid interactions for triggering relief shearing and present a version that uses device tilt to control depth effects. Our explorations show that interactive relief shearing can improve depth perception when compared to both traditional 2D maps and 3D perspective views. Moreover, because our approach is simple, lightweight, and compatible with existing interaction techniques we believe it could be a compelling addition to existing web-based mapping tools and mobile devices.


Wesley Willett is a computer scientist specializing in information visualization, social computing, new media, and human computer interaction. Wes recently completed a post-doc in the AVIZ group at INRIA-Saclay in France and (starting in July 2015) will be an assistant professor at the University of Calgary. He received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 2012, where he studied with Dr. Maneesh Agrawala. Wes's research focuses on pairing data and interactivity to support collaboration, learning, and discovery.