Abstract

This paper proposes a theoretical model of wayfinding that can be used to guide the design of navigational aiding in virtual environments. Based on an evaluation of wayfinding studies in natural environments, this model divides the wayfinding process into three main subprocesses: cognitive mapping, wayfinding plan development, and physical movement or navigation through an environment. While this general subdivision has been proposed before, the current model further delineates the wayfinding process, including the distinct influences of spatial information, spatial orientation, and spatial knowledge. The influences of experience, abilities, search strategies, motivation, and environmental layout on the wayfinding process are also considered. With this specification of the wayfinding process, a taxonomy of navigational tools is then proposed that can be used to systematically aid the specified wayfinding subprocesses. If effectively applied to the design of a virtual environment, the use of such tools should lead to reduced disorientation and enhanced wayfinding in large-scale virtual spaces. It is also suggested that, in some cases, this enhanced wayfinding performance may be at the expense of the acquisition of an accurate cognitive map of the virtual environment being traversed.

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