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Our Project

Geographic information displays (GIDs) such as digital maps with navigation guidance have become an integral part of our everyday life. When seeking directions towards a new restaurant or the quickest connection to the office, people will retrieve their smartphones and navigate towards the destination almost effortlessly. However, does the ease with which we can now find our way come with a price? Without GIDs, are we more likely to become lost than previous generations?

The ERC Advanced Grant “GeoViSense” attempts to answer these questions (among others) with systematic studies of people’s navigation behavior in real and virtual environments. While behavior in virtual environments is easier to control and predict, studies in real environments allow us to determine the extent to which our predictions generalize to everyday situations. These two aspects are both necessary for deriving a complete understanding of human spatial behavior and GIDs. Mobile physiological devices (e.g., heart rate sensors) can also be validated in a relatively controlled virtual reality setup and then employed to investigate real world behavior.

As part of the Digital Society Initiative at the University of Zurich, we are also interested in questions at the forefront of science and society more generally. Towards this end, we will attempt to address topics such as the relationship between technology and human abilities, the adaptation of technology to fit specific situations, and the personalization of technology for specific types of users. For example, people may respond to stress during navigation by focusing on a limited amount of information that is easily available. Is there some way to adapt the GID to account for this change in the person’s behavior?  Using both physiological and behavioral measurements, we will investigate the extent to which a user is stressed or engaged during navigation and how to adapt the GID accordingly.

For more information about this project, please visit the following webpages: