Friday, 31 May 2013

Health and Geospatial Information

Collaborators at the Faculty of Medicine are using GIS and geospatial techniques to investigate associations between variables in the geographic environment, such as access to green space, with characteristics of the health of a population.

 Potestio M.L., Patel A.B., Powell C.D., McNeil D.A. Jacobson R.D. and McLaren L. (2009) Is there an association between spatial access to parks/green space and childhood overweight/obesity in Calgary, Canada? International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 6:77 doi:10.1186/1479-5868-6-77

Community Responses to Tourism Development in the Canadian Arctic

Community Action GIS in the Arctic

Dr. Emma Stewart's project explores how to achieve tourism development in the Canadian Arctic that is both sustainable and acceptable to local communities, and how to engage citizens effectively in the public planning process. Given predictions that Arctic waters could be substantially free of ice by 2050, the research focuses on the effects of increased tourism and shipping activity on Arctic communities. Her research aims to explore community responses to cruise tourism using a modified Public Participation Geographic Information Systems approach.

map of canadiam artic showing study sites of Pond Inlet Cambridge Bay and Churchill
Study sites in the Canadian High Artic

Schematic overview of Participatory Geographic Information System (PGIS)
Overview of a Community Action GIS

Department of Geography, University of Calgary
Arctic Institute of North America
Trudeau Foundation

Stewart, E. Jacobson, R.D. and Draper D.  (2008) Public participation geographicinformation systems (PPGIS): challenges of implementation in Churchill,Manitoba. The Canadian Geographer / Le G´eographe canadien, 52(3), 351–366.

CAG member profile The Canadian Association of Geographers Newsletter, Jan 2006 [PDF]

Multimodal speech interfaces to GIS

Multimodal speech interfaces to GIS

Ken Sam's project invloves leveraging existing commercial off the shelf (COTS) web-GIS component and open specification Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) as building blocks for creating a multimodal web-GIS application. In this paper, we will address how the different technology components were applied for creating a multimodal interfaces for the navigation, interaction and feedback for the web-based GIS application.

Screen caputure of Voice-enabled multimodal WebGIS application interface
Speech driven GIS interface
In most computing and information technology environment, data is presented in either text or graphic format as a means of conveying information to the end users. This has been the traditional paradigm of data display and visualization in the computing world. Efforts have been made in the software industry to design better navigation interfaces for software products and improve on the overall user-friendliness of the products. With geospatial data, additional dimensions are introduced in the presentation and display of the data. Because of the added complexity of geospatial data, there are a number of researches that are still on-going in trying to improve on the interface, visualization and interpretation of geospatial data. One can normally expect geospatial data to be viewed or interpreted by a normal-vision user without much challenge. Yet, visualization and navigation of map is a huge challenge for people who are visually impaired. The design and usability of GIS applications has traditionally been tailored to keyboard and mouse interaction in an office environment. To help with the visualization of geospatial data and navigation of a GIS application, this project presents the result of a prototype application that incorporates voice as another mode of interacting with a web-GIS application. While voice is not a replacement for the mouse and keyboard interface, it can act as an enhancement or augmentation to improve the accessibility and usability of an application. The multimodal approach of combining voice with other user interface for navigation and data presentation is beneficial to the interpretation and visualization of geospatial data and make GIS easier to use for all users.

Jacobson, R.D., and Sam, K. (2006) Multimodal Web-GIS: AugmentingMap Navigation and Spatial Data Visualization with Voice Control, AutoCarto 2006, June 26-28, Electronic Proceedings.

Multimodal zooming in digital geographic information

As a basic research issue, how well can people integrate and reconcile spatial information from various modalities, and how useful is such integration?

As an applied issue, what is the potential for haptic and auditory navigation within geographic information systems? Can visual information be augmented by the presentation of information via other modalities, namely, haptics and audition, and if so, to what extent?

The research will investigate a particular form of navigation within geographic information systems, namely, zooming. The research aims to investigate non-visual methods of representing or augmenting a visual zoom through the auditory and haptic senses, creating a multimodal zooming mechanism.

Transcending the Digital Divide

The purpose of this research is to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a non-visual interface for accessing digital information. The aim is to investigate the perceptual and cognitive problems that blind people face when trying to interpret information provided in a multimodal manner. The project also plans to provide touch sensitive and sound based network interface and navigation devices that incorporate cognitive wayfinding heuristics. Haptic (force feedback) interfaces will be provided for exploring web pages that consist of map, graphic, iconic or image products. Sound identifiers for on-screen windowed, map, and image information will also be provided. These tasks will contribute to transcending the Digital Divide that increasingly separates blind or vision impaired people from the growing information-based workplace. Recent research at UCSB has begun to explore how individuals identify features presented through sound and touch. Other research (e.g. O'Modhrrain and Gillespie, 1998; McKinley and Scott, 1998) have used haptics to explore screen objects such as windows, pulldown menus, buttons, and sliders; but map, graphic and other cartographic representations have not been explored. In particular, the potential of auditory maps of on-screen phenomena (e.g. as would be important in GIS applications) has barely been examined and few examples exist of combining audio and touch principles to build an interface. While imaginative efforts to build non-visual interfaces have been proceeding. there is a yet little empirical evidence that people without sight can use them effectively (i.e. develop a true representation of the experienced phenomena). Experiments will be undertaken to test the ability of vision impaired and sighted people from different age groups to use these new interface or features such as: (i) the haptic mouse or a touch window tied to auditory communication displays; (ii) digitized real sounds to indicate environmental features at their mapped locations; (iii) "sound painting" of maps, images, or charts to indicate gradients of phenomena like temperature, precipitation, pressure, population density and altitude. Tests will be developed to evaluate (i) the minimum resolvable area for the haptic interpretation of scenes; (ii) the development of skills for shape tracing in the sound or the force-feedback haptic domain, (iii) the possibility of using continuous or discreet sound symbols associated with touch sensitive pads to learn hierarchically nested screen information (e.g. locations of cities within regions within states within nations); (iv) to evaluate how dynamic activities such as scrolling, zooming, and searching can be conducted in the haptic or auditory domain, (v) to evaluate people's comprehension and ability to explore, comprehend, and make inferences about various non-visual interpretations of complex visual displays (e.g. maps and diagrams), and (vi) to explore the effectiveness of using a haptic mouse with a 2" square motion domain to search a 14" screen (i.e. scale effects).

Off-Route Strategies in Non-Visual Navigation

The project addresses the effects of learning method on route comprehension of visually impaired people, and it will determine if changes in geographic scale alter the effectiveness of selected learning media. An understanding of how different methods of learning affect route comprehension will allow current spatial knowledge acquisition theory and orientation and mobility training to be assessed and, if necessary, improved. Traversing space is one of the most cognitively demanding tasks faced by visually impaired people, and often invokes fear of being lost or disorientated. For these reasons there is a need to identify effective strategies of spatial learning that can contribute to the mobility and quality of life of visually impaired people. In the first experiment 24 visually impaired people will learn three short routes across a University campus (in counterbalanced order). Each route will be learned using a different learning method. The 24 subjects will be divided into 4 groups who will learn the route in a different order. The 3 conditions will be (1) pointing to places along the route, (2) making a map of the route, and (3) verbally describing the route. A further (control) group of ten visually impaired subjects will learn the route without any given strategy. Each trial will be video recorded. The three strategies selected are "off-route" strategies. Participants' route learning performance will be measured in several ways: the number of trials required to achieve successful route learning; number of errors made; types of errors; self-reported confidence measures; and assessment by independent judges of performance, hesitancy, and confidence. In the second experiment, 16 participants will learn a route 1.4 miles long through a complex urban environment. Participants will be divided into two conditions. In the first condition, they will learn the route using the most successful strategy from Experiment 1. In the second condition, they will learn the route using no given strategy. Sample sizes in both experiments are relatively small due to the difficulty of recruiting visually impaired participants, but the number of participants and number of trials will be greater than in previous experiments of way-finding and therefore should provide definitive results. By collecting data in a small-scale (university campus) and a large-scale environment (suburban neighborhood) we may find that spatial knowledge acquisition focuses on different cognition tasks at different scales. For the development of an effective orientation and mobility training program, these tasks may be operationalized via one or more simple geographic-based environmental learning procedures. The research addresses important theoretical questions relating to spatial learning and cognition, providing further insights into how visually impaired people construct, store, and utilize spatial knowledge. In so doing, it will address practical issues relating to the improvement of current orientation and mobility training.


Blades, M., Lippa, Y., Golledge, R.G., Jacobson, R.D., and Kitchin, R.M. (2002) Wayfinding by people with visual impairments: The effect of spatial tasks on the ability to learn a novel route. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness 96, 407-419.
Link here

Jacobson, R.D., Lippa, Y., Golledge, R.G., Kitchin, R.M., and Blades, M. (2001) Rapid development of cognitive maps in people with visual impairments when exploring novel geographic spaces. IAPS Bulletin of People-Environment Studies (Special Issue on Environmental Cognition) 18, 3-6.
Link here

Golledge, R.G., Jacobson, R.D., Kitchin, R.M., and Blades, M. (2000). Cognitive maps, spatial abilities, and human wayfinding. Geographical Review of Japan, ser. B: The English journal of the Association of Japenese Geographers, 73 (Ser.B) (2), 93-104.
Link Here


Department of Geography, University of California at Santa Barbarba, USA
Department of Psychology, University of California at Santa Barbarba, USA
Department of Geography, Florida State University, USA
Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK
Department of Geography, National University of Maynooth, Ireland