PhD project: Using 3D geovisualisations for urban design: The case of informal settlement upgrading in South Africa

We are starting a new thread in our blog! We will be featuring interesting scientific work done by our members or in our extended community once in a while. We begin by a recently completed PhD thesis, by our working group secretary Dr. Victoria Rautenbach. Victoria (relatively recently, and very successfully) completed her PhD at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. In this post, we provide a summary of Victoria’s PhD project, and link to some of the related publications for those who wish to dig deeper.

ps. On a side note, here’s a lovely moment of cultural fusion in Victoria’s graduation ceremony:


Using 3D geovisualisations for urban design: The case of informal settlement upgrading in South Africa

Informal settlements are a common occurrence in South African due to housing backlogs and shortage of housing subsidies, and are often located on disputed land. To improve in-situ circumstances of these communities, informal settlement upgrades and urban design is required. Spatial data and maps are essential throughout the entire upgrading and urban design process in order to understand the current environment, plan new developments and communicate planned developments. All stakeholders need to understand maps to ensure active participation in the urban design process. Many researchers proclaimed that because 3D visualisations resemble the real environment more than traditional maps, and are more intuitive, therefore 3D geovisualisations are easier to interpret. The question arises whether 3D geovisualisations can support and even benefit the urban design process, in the context of this thesis, specifically for upgrading of South African informal settlements.

To investigate the use of 3D geovisualisation, the following topics needs to be investigated: modelling processes (manual and procedural); visual design (visual characteristics, visual complexity and visual variables); and cognition related to spatial tasks on 3D geovisualisations and comparable alternatives (i.e. topographic maps, aerial photographs, 2D maps) when performing basic map reading tasks. They found that procedural modelling was found to be a feasible alternative to time-consuming manual modelling and has the capabilities to produce high-quality models. The results of four user studies and expert interviews contributed to understanding the impact of various levels of complexity in 3D city models and map literacy of future geoinformatics and planning professionals when using aerial photographs, 2D maps and 3D models. The research results could assist planners in designing suitable 3D models for use throughout the entire urban design process.

Relevant publications to this project:

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2017) Development and evaluation of a specialized task taxonomy for spatial planning – A map literacy experiment with topographic maps. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, In press. DOI: 10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2016.06.013.

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2016) Investigating the use of 3D geovisualisations for urban design in informal settlement upgrading in South Africa. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences (ISPRS Archives), Volume XLI-B2, 2016 XXIII ISPRS Congress, 12–19 July 2016, Prague, Czech Republic.

Rautenbach, V., Bevis, Y., Coetzee, S. & Combrinck, C. (2015) Evaluating procedural modelling for 3D models of informal settlements in urban design activities. South African Journal of Science, 111(11/12), DOI: 10.17159/sajs.2015/20150100.

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. Schiewe, J. & Çöltekin, A. (2015) An Assessment of Visual Variables for the Cartographic Design of 3D Informal Settlement Models. 27th International Cartographic Conference. 23–28 August 2015, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Rautenbach, V., Çöltekin, A. & Coetzee, S (2015) Exploring the Impact of Visual Complexity Levels in 3D City Models on the Accuracy of Individuals’ Orientation and Cognitive Maps, ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume II-3/W5, 2015 ISPRS Geospatial Week 2015, 28 Sep–03 Oct 2015, La Grande Motte, France

Rautenbach, V., Coetzee, S. & Çöltekin, A. (2014) Towards evaluating the map literacy of planners in 2D maps and 3D models in South Africa. AfricaGEO 2014 Conference Proceedings. 1–3 July 2014, Cape Town, South Africa.

The thesis itself is here.

Computer Science / Geovis PhD position at the University of Zurich

Open position for a PhD student in computer science in the area of geographic visualization at the University of Zürich. This position is for a PhD student participating in a Swiss National Science Foundation funded project. See the description, benefits and requirements here:

Geovis/AR/VR Special sessions at the AAG – call for contributions

One of our active members, Prof. Alex Klippel of PennState, is leading (and we are helping) a few special sessions at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting on topics that are core interest to our working group. Please see the call for contributions below, and feel free to distribute this to your networks.

If you are interested, please send your PIN to klippel (at) by November 17th, 2016. If this language confuses you as it once did to me (i.e., “what PIN”?), you probably have never been to AAG ;). It’s something AAG participants get and is used for coordinating, explore the conference information here:

-Arzu & the WG team

Call for contributions

AAG Meeting 2017, Boston, MA, USA

April 5-9, 2017

Session sponsored by:
Cartography Specialty Group
GIScience Specialty Group

Session title: 3D Virtual and Augmented Realities for Geoinformation Science

Recent developments in 3D virtual and augmented reality technologies have spurred industry, research, and education developments that will effect (geo) spatial information science intimately. The ease of accessing 3D information through environmental sensors (Photogrammetry, LiDAR, or 360 degree cameras) and modeling efforts using, for example, ESRI CityEngine or Google SketchUp, allow for creating efficient workflows from environments to digital, interactive 3D models. In parallel, the virtual and augmented technology industry has made substantial progress to provide products that allow VR and AR to enter both mainstream and research in unprecedented ways. The quality and affordability of products such as Oculus Rift, Samsung GearVR, Zeiss VR One, to name just a few, allow for immersive and augmented experiences that have been unparalleled so far.

The proposed sessions continues the inaugural meeting in San Francisco. The opportunities for (geo) spatial information science research and applications are vast, and it is time to provide a forum for discussing industry, research, and education developments that address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

– Efficient workflows for 3D environmental modeling for built and natural environments,
– 3D modeling software for 3D geoinformation modeling,
– Game engines in geospatial research and education,
– Virtual and mixed realities,
– Augmented reality games (e.g., Pokemon Go),
– Spatial temporal data visualization in VR,
– Immersive Visual Analytics,
– Big data visualization and VR,
– User experiences in Geovirtual Environments,
– Accessories for 3D modeling and VR (e.g., 360 degree cameras),
– Digital Cultural Heritage

Organisers: Alexander Klippel (Geography, The Pennsylvania State University), Danielle Oprean (Architecture/Landscape Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University), Craig McCabe (ESRI), Sven Fuhrmann (Geography and Geoinformation Science, George Mason University), Arzu Çöltekin (Geography, University of Zurich, Switzerland), Robert Stewart (Geographic Information Science and Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Christopher Petit (Urban Science / City Futures, University of New South Wales, Australia).

For more information, please contact Dr. Alexander Klippel
( Please send your PIN to by November
17th, 2016 if you are interested in presenting in this session.

New name, new team for our WG

During the last ISPRS meeting in Prague, there was a restructuring of the Commissions and Working Groups. Below you will find a summary of the changes:

Name change: Our commission (Spatial Information Science) is now Commission IV, and our working groups is WG IV/9. We also modified the name of the WG slightly, and now we are called “Geovisualization, Augmented and Virtual Reality“.

Team change: We also have some changes in our team. Our past co-chair Dr. Bo Wu decided to step down from the executive committee but remains an active member. We are thankful for Bo’s executive contributions for the last two terms. For the new term, we warmly welcome Dr. Sidonie Christophe of IGN, who is also a co-chair at the ICA commission on Cognitive Visualization. We are looking forward to collaborating more on cognitive and human centered issues. Furthermore, myself and Dr. Chris Pettit have swapped hats (chair <–> co-chair) and I will chair the group for the next four years, while Chris remains actively involved as a co-chair in our executive team. Victoria also continues for another term in her role in our executive team. We are excited to build a community around the topics of (human-centered) geovisualization, augmented and virtual reality. If you wish to collaborate with us, please become a member, and if you wish to organize activities (workshops, special issues and such) under our WG’s umbrella, please drop as an email and we’ll have a conversation. You will find our ‘terms of reference’ below the image.


Terms of reference

  • Enhanced communication of geographic information and knowledge
  • Geovisual analytics for (small and) big data exploration
  • Usability testing and empirical experiments related to spatial cognition and visualization
  • Geographic visualization of multi-dimensional data
  • Novel methods and tools for exploring and visualizing geographic decision spaces
  • Platforms supporting geographical visualization including the web and mobile devices
  • Geographic visualization of crowd sourced, social media, and government databases
  • Development, application and evaluations of immersive and semi-immersive virtual reality visualization environments
  • Virtual and augmented reality representations of space, place and time

More will follow soon!

ISPRS Congress closing – our thanks

Today is the last day at the ISPRS, we are now in the closing ceremony. Because our working group organized four sessions (two theme sessions, two regular sessions, and related interactive sessions) & a tutorial, we want to thank all our contributors, all who reviewed (the list below), and all who came and listened, asked questions, joined conversation. Last but not least, the local organizers, who has done a great job!

Reviewers for papers in our sessions (listed here &, thank you all:

(in alphabetical order)
Raffaella Balzarini, Inria Research Center in Grenoble-France
Sidonie Christophe, COGIT, IGN, France
Arzu Coltekin, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Suzana Dragicevic, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Lena Halounová, Czech Technical University, Czech Republic
Vladimír Kovařík, Tomas Bata University in Zlín, Czech Republic
Christopher James Pettit, UNSW, Australia
Victoria Rautenbach, Uni Pretoria, South Africa
Monika Sester, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany
Emmanuel Stefanakis, UNB, Canada
Uwe Stilla, TU Munich, Germany
Xiaohua Tong, Tongji University, China
Bo Wu, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

'Lena's super team' (local organizers)
‘Lena’s super team’ (local organizers)

We will also soon announce some changes in commission & working groups that took place during the congress.

Part II: Interactive presentations at the ISPRS congress (12-19 July 2016), Prague, Czech Republic

This is the Part II of a blog post (Part I features the tutorial and oral sessions), in which we feature the interactive presentations at the ISPRS 2016 Congress (12-19 July, Prague).

    ISPRS Prague 2016

Our WG activities have been well-received and we had many submissions. Based on reviewer recommendations we selected some of them for oral presentations, and some of them for interactive presentations. Below you can see the interactive presentations:

WED 13th July, 15.00-16.30
ThS16 Perceptual and Cognitive experiments with imagery and 3D models
Interactive sessions (also see oral sessions)

ThS17 THU 14th July 15:00-16:30
Smart Cities
Interactive sessions (also see oral sessions)

FRI 15th July 15:00-16:30
Geographical Visualization and Virtual Reality
Interactive sessions (also see oral sessions)

Part I: Our WG II/6 events at the ISPRS congress (12-19 July 2016), Prague, Czech Republic

Our working group is (slightly hyper) active in the upcoming ISPRS congress starting next week!

    ISPRS Prague 2016

We start with a tutorial on eye movement analysis for imagery and 3D models, continue with two theme sessions perceptual and cognitive experiments and smart cities, and finish with two more sessions we organized on geographical visualization and virtual reality.

Tutorial & Oral sessions:
(also see our interactive sessions)

On Tuesday (12 July) 08:30-12:00 Raechel Bianchetti and I (Arzu Çöltekin) are offering a tutorial titled, Usability methods and eye movement analysis for understanding the use of remotely sensed imagery, 3D geovisualizations and virtual reality. Tutorial will consist of lectures and a hands-on session.

On Wednesday (13 July) 16:30 – 18:00, our theme session on Perceptual and Cognitive experiments with imagery and 3D models will take place. Session features the following oral presentations (also see our interactive sessions)

On Thursday (14 July) 16:30 – 18:00, our theme session on Smart Cities will take place. Session features the following oral presentations (also see our interactive sessions) .

On Friday (15 July) 13:30 – 15:00 and 16:30 – 18:00, we have two sessions on Geographical Visualization and Virtual Reality. Sessions feature the following oral presentations (also see our interactive sessions) .

Friday (15 July) 13:30 – 15:00

On Friday (15 July) 16:30 – 18:00

Special issue section completed: Multidimensional Modelling, Analysis and Visualization

After our meeting in Canada in October 2014, we have been working on a special issue theme section with the ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. The issue is now finalized & the contents look like this:


(to enlarge, click on the image — if you want to dig deeper, follow the links below)

Link to journal issue
Link to editorial

Two special issues from our Working Group in IJDE

In the late summer 2015, we have completed two special issues for the International Journal of Digital Earth – you can see the editorials here (with brief summaries of the papers included in each special issue):

1) Geovisual Analytics: Design and Implementation:

2) Geovisual Analytics: Human Factors:

We believe these issues features some interesting research and you will enjoy reading them. Let us know if we’re right! 🙂

Our Geovis’15 workshop in France was a success!

Our workshop in France held during the Geospatial week, titled Geovis’15 was very well received! The workshop was organized Sidonie Christophe (co-chair of the ICA Cognitive Visualization Commission) and myself (Arzu Coltekin, co-chair of this ISPRS WG II/6 Geovisualization and Virtual Reality). Furthermore, it was also supported by the ICA’s Commission on Geovisualization.

The program of the workshop:
Annals papers (all Geospatial week):
Our introduction to the Geovis section in Annals:
Archives papers (all Geospatial week)

Our Geovis’15 keynote speaker was Dr. Clare Davies from the UK. She is a psychologist with a strong background working with Geo-professionals.
The two chairs of the event were Sidonie Christophe and Arzu Coltekin.
Scientific Committee members from all over the world made this event a high quality gathering.