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WG1: Web3D Technologies

Start date Year 1, Month 3
Duration Six months
Partner responsible Udine
Other partners Valencia , Hyderabad
Exchange 1 post-graduate (10 days), 1 expert (10 days)
Workshop Udine – Year 1, Month 9



Three-dimensional (3D) environments are increasingly used for a broad range of applications that goes from CAD systems to entertainment. In particular, 3D environments can be effectively exploited for educational purposes, making the learning experience more attractive and more effective. Moreover, recent developments in 3D technologies are Web-oriented (Web3D), making it possible to offer 3D educational environments on the Web for Distance Learning initiatives. Significant experiments in this direction are reported by the literature, and they concern educational domains as diverse as medicine and the training of engineers. Unfortunately, 3D environments, whether representing existing objects or places (e.g., virtual reconstruction of Cultural Heritage) or imaginary ones (e.g., virtual prototypes for a designer) typically leave the user insufficiently assisted in navigating the environment, discover points of interest, and effectively interact with objects and functions. The lack of sufficient user support in 3D environments leads to a number of usability problems, ranging from navigation issues (e.g., wayfinding) to difficulties in figuring out which operations can be performed on the objects in the world and how to perform them. Usability of 3D environments is thus one of the major limiting factors to their use in educational settings. The goal of our project is twofold:

  • on one side, we will explore innovative applications of Web3D technologies for educational purposes, aiming at proposing demonstrations of their potential;
  • on the other side, we will study the usability problems of 3D environments, aiming at proposing effective solutions to them.

Description of work

The workgroup will proceed as follows:

  • Guidelines for the design of highly usable 3D environments . On one side, we will study which guidelines from the design of physical environments can be adapted to virtual environments. For example, in the design of buildings, architects aim at reducing way finding problems for the people traveling the building by increasing visual access or including navigational cues. On the other side, we will devise electronic navigation aids to augment user’s capabilities to explore and learn in 3D environments. Since we aim at maximizing usability, we will study solutions that should be more intuitive and effective than those currently used. For example, while electronic maps of the environment are a frequent solution provided to help users orient themselves in a 3D world, they adopt a third-person perspective, which can require a considerable cognitive mapping effort to be correctly interpreted in the first-person perspective of the virtual world.
  • Innovative applications of Web3D technology for educational purposes. We will consider three different domains (Aeronautics, Museums and Cultural Heritage, and Virtual Design) that span the whole range of technical and scientific issues raised by these new educational technologies. Using these three domains as our case studies, we will identify more clearly the strengths and weaknesses of Web3D technologies. We will then propose some innovative prototypes that demonstrate effective features of those technologies in each of the three considered domains.

Experts involved in this workgroup: 5


The deliverable of the project will be: scientific publications; demonstrations of prototypes.

Considering the high interest of some enterprises towards Web3D technology, we also would be capable to organise knowledge transfer initiatives.