Developing a Virtual Reality User Interface (VRUI) for Geographic Information Retrieval on the Internet

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The exponential growth of the World Wide Web provides the potential for greatly enhanced dissemination of global data-sets and information. However, the concurrent rise in data supply also means that new tools are required for information retrieval beyond the conventional graphical user-interface (GUI). This paper reviews the development of web-based GIS functionality and demonstrates how the multi-dimensional capabilities of VR tools can bring enhanced data exploration and visualisation onto the Internet by providing a more powerful 3D user-interface to identify and query data-sets. One key to the development of such interactive tools is the link between the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML) and the JAVA platform, which together allow dynamic 3D content to be accessed through a web browser. Exploration of large diverse data-sets is demonstrated by a prototype system allowing the integration of terrain-based geoscience data-sets for scientific visualisation and education. The current limitations of the technology are discussed and further suggestions are made to improve the information content of the Internet.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: GIS Research Centre, University of Glamorgan

Publication date: June 1, 1999

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