1. 3D terrain management tool

3MAP - milestone 2.

interaction design : principles : nodes

Design Principles

Placing nodes in geospace



Our aim is to create a system to allow non-expert users to not only view, but also to publish data.

Existing GIS systems require extensive training in both the software and in geospatial concepts and terminology. They give users the power to input large amounts of data quickly, at the cost of a steep learning curve. We need to give our users the power to input small amounts of data easily.

Abstract concepts like nodes, databases and metadata element sets are not obvious, and users should not have to learn them before they start to publish.

Inputing text into a database which will then be expressed as objects in a virtual environment is too abstracted an input method for mainstream use.




In order to make nodes concrete, require them to be represented by a 3D object which users place in the environment.

Allow users to place these objects directly into the virtual environment while immersed in it.


Placing 3D objects in a 3D scene is an unsolved interaction design problem, at least for non-expert users.

3D authoring tools often separate the task of placement from others such as modelling and editing attributes.

Producing an effective solution for a broad user base will be a significant challenge for this project, and will require iterative interaction design and testing.

However our specific task comes with one known constraint that we can use to simplify the task.

  1. Users will generally want to place objects on the ground plane.

To facilitate placement, we can constrain the positioning task to two dimensions. This relieves us from having to display multiple views of the object in order to ensure that it is being placed at the correct height.

The following is an approach that shows initial promise:



Task flow

(diagram in GarretIA, a visual vocabulary
for describing information architecture and interaction design)

   1.  User navigates to a position with a view of the location where they would like to place a node.
   2. User selects New Node (command or alt-N) from the File menu.
   3. Objects in the scene become transparent (possibly displaying as wireframes) in order to avoid occluding the target area.
   4. Crosshairs appear on the ground, following terrain and corresponding to the current mouse location.
   5. A tooltip indicates that the user should click and drag to create a rectangle on the ground.
      Alternatively, a standard-sized box could appear at the mousedown point.
   6. On mouseup, the rectangle will have handles on each of its four corners, and in the middle. The corner handles afford resizing, and the middle handle affords movement of the rectangle across the ground plane.
   7. The viewpoint will automatically lock on the the centre point of the newly created rectangle, allowing the user to examine it without getting lost.
   8. The Object Selector will appear, allowing the user to select or upload a 3D object to appear within the boundaries of the rectangle. After it has been chosen, the handles will still be available for the user to adjust the object's position and scale on the ground.
   9. User will then go on to add structured metadata to the node.

navigate annotate the node