Do We Need Maps in 3D?

The basic idea of a map is that it uses a series of symbols combined to represent the land we live in.

Google Mobile Maps 5.0 for Android will have 3D interaction.

(more infor on the Google Mobile Blog)

Granted a street map does not provide height elements in the way contours are provided on an OS Explorer or Landranger map, but contours provide more than height information. They provide us with information on gradient and land shape and formation and these are key to route planning.

In New York, as an example, you can rarely tell how tall a building is when standing next to it, so the height will only be useful when at a distance. So this helps with orientation rather planned direction and with an inbuilt compass a simpler tool is already provided in this application.

Map makers have to weigh up the complexity and volume of data they provide with the ease at which this data can be transformed into usable information in the brain.

My questions are

  1. If you can read a street map, how much additional information with the 3D elements provide and will they hinder your map reading.
  2. If you can’t read a street map how much easier is it to navigate with the building superimposed? Is learning to read a map easier when there are fewer items requiring your attention?

Let me know what you think.

2 thoughts on “Do We Need Maps in 3D?

  1. Craig Johnston says:

    As you will be aware my map reading skills are fantastic lol. I think the 3-D element could be well suited to a city enviroment. I would give a greater idea of the surrounds. Many people are not as skilled as you or I when it comes to map reading, and often most people would dread the idea of using a map. The only problem I can see for the clip is that the perspective seems strange and the idea of reading/using the map by viewing the area directly above seems to have gone. It seems to almost replicate old virtual reality clips and so instead of aiding you in getting to a fixed point is seems to just replicate what you could actually be seeing at a particular point in time. Rather than being a navigation tool it seems to be a means of producing a graphic of what you could be seeing in real life. Seems to be more novelty than benefitial, but not everyone is old skool like me who actually enjooys reading a map. Well I think that is quite enough ranting from me and I am sure it will be of no use lol.

  2. Julie says:

    My initial reaction was that it was a novelty, Craig, so I understand your point there.

    As I recall your map reading wasn’t bad, but then you had a few good teachers :o)

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