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Publication Detail
Visibility matters during wayfinding in the vertical
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
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  • Authors:
    Gath-Morad M, Thrash T, Schicker J, Holscher C, Helbing D, Melgar LEA
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  • Article number:
    ARTN 18980
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  • Keywords:
    Science & Technology, Multidisciplinary Sciences, Science & Technology - Other Topics, PLACE CELLS, SPACE, HIPPOCAMPUS, STRATEGIES, NAVIGATION, KNOWLEDGE, ISOVISTS
Visibility is the degree to which different parts of the environment can be observed from a given vantage point. In the absence of previous familiarity or signage, the visibility of key elements in a multilevel environment (e.g., the entrance, exit, or the destination itself) becomes a primary input to make wayfinding decisions and avoid getting lost. Previous research has focused on memory-based wayfinding and mental representation of 3D space, but few studies have investigated the direct effects of visibility on wayfinding. Moreover, to our knowledge, there are no studies that have explicitly observed the interaction between visibility and wayfinding under uncertainty in a multilevel environment. To bridge this gap, we studied how the visibility of destinations, as well as the continuity of sight-lines along the vertical dimension, affects unaided and goal-directed wayfinding behavior in a multilevel desktop Virtual Reality (VR) study. We obtained results from a total of 69 participants. Each participant performed a total of 24 wayfinding trials in a multilevel environment. Results showcase a significant and nonlinear correlation between the visibility of destinations and wayfinding behavioral characteristics. Specifically, once the destination was in sight, regardless of whether it was highly or barely visible, participants made an instantaneous decision to switch floors and move up towards the destination. In contrast, if the destination was out-of-sight, participants performed ‘visual exploration’, indicated by an increase in vertical head movements and greater time taken to switch floors. To demonstrate the direct applicability of this fundamental wayfinding behavioral pattern, we formalize these results by modeling a visibility-based cognitive agent. Our results show that by modeling the transition between exploration and exploitation as a function of visibility, cognitive agents were able to replicate human wayfinding patterns observed in the desktop VR study. This simple demonstration shows the potential of extending our main findings concerning the nonlinear relationship between visibility and wayfinding to inform the modeling of human cognition.
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