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Spatial Knowledge Acquisition and Transfer from Virtual to Natural Environments for Dismounted Land Navigation

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Master's thesis

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Navigation and terrain familiarity are critical for mission success in the military. Virtual environments VEs have often been suggested as a useful tool in addressing these issues. This thesis research addresses the utility of VEs to improve spatial knowledge of and navigation performance through natural terrain compared to traditional methods. In this experiment, fifteen subjects were assigned to one of three training conditions. The map group studied the environment using only an orienteering map. The real world group studied the environment using the map and explored the actual terrain. The VE group studied the terrain using both the map and a real-time VE. Measures were taken of both route and configuration knowledge. The results suggest four conclusions. First, training conditions have no statistically significant effect on an individuals ability to obtain and demonstrate spatial knowledge of a natural environment Second, spatial ability plays a significant role in navigation performance. Third, exposure to the actual terrain or to a virtual representation of the terrain seems to eliminate ambiguities in an individuals mental map by providing dynamic imagery to clarify propositional knowledge gained from maps. However, this factor has not been shown to improve performance by the measures used here. Fourth, a high resolution 15,000 orienteering map provides extensive detail and consequently, navigation performance in this experiment is not likely to be indicative of performance using a conventional 124,000 map.

Subject Categories:

  • Cybernetics
  • Land and Riverine Navigation and Guidance

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