Applications of Serious Games in Geovisualization

Applications of Serious Games in Geovisualization

Alexandra Diehl (Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina) and Claudio Delrieux (Universidad Nacional del Sur, Argentina)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0149-9.ch002


The aim of this chapter is to introduce the reader to the impact of the application of serious games in geovisualization, due in particular to the use of flight simulators and associated technologies. The authors present the main elements and techniques developed for serious games that have influenced geovisualization research, and also bring an overview of some available frameworks for the implementation of serious games. They illustrate the main concepts, the development of an integrated system that combines flight simulator technologies with satellite imagery, and other diverse geographical data sources in a single geovisualization application. The chapter also presents a review of the high-end human-machine interfaces designed for games and their current and possible uses as geovisualization exploration tools. A discussion about the several challenges is provided as well as the opportunities that arise through the application of serious games in this area.
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Serious games emerged as a differentiation of computer games, where the motivation is not entertainment but to impart certain knowledge or expertise to the users (Zyda, 2005). This kind of games is becoming widespread in education, business, government, defense, health, and communication, among an ever growing spectrum of application areas.

Furthermore, computer game technology in general, and flight simulators in particular, experienced a remarkable evolution during the last years, not only in performance but also in interactive features, mostly due to the leverage of GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) power to render increasingly complex 3D models in real-time. Fulfilling the growing requirements of the user community, flight simulators became more and more sophisticated by including all kinds of new features. The quest for photorealism, advanced interactive features, and dynamic aspects, is providing a huge thrust both to commercial and scientific research related to this kind of applications. There is a vast community of free-lance developers, professionals, researchers, and newly emerging companies that focus their efforts to generate innovative results, including for instance FSDeveloper (2011), FlightSimWorld (2011), FlightSim (2011), and AVSim (2011), to mention just a few. There are also organizations such as FlightGear (2011) and its related projects JSBSim (2011) and TerraGear (2011), among others. Also there is a strong support given by most of the companies engaged in flight simulator development, for instance Microsoft© for its product Microsoft Flight® (2011), and Laminar Research© for its product X-Plane® (2011).

Among the features that may be required in geovisualization (geographical visualization), we can mention terrain rendering (Andersson, 2007; Asirvatham & Hoppe, 2005; Olsen, 2004), modeling and visualization of clouds and atmospheric phenomena (Hasan, Karim, & Ahmed, 2005), and natural phenomena modeling and rendering (Finch, 2004; Perlin, 2004) to mention just a few examples. These typical game features have a great potential for their utilization in the development of geovisualization applications, i.e., rendering actual terrain and geographic features instead of simulated ones. One major claim of this chapter is that the key for a successful impact of serious games in geovisualization resides in the possibility of applying the same engines and frameworks that were created for game development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geographical Information: The result of a process of processing geospatial data with some meaning for the user.

Geodatabase: Database with support for geospatial data and spatial reference systems, geospatial operations and spatial indexing.

Geovisualization: Visualization of real or simulated 2D or 3D geographical information and ancillary data, taking into account the user experience and interaction.

3D Engine: Rendering engine for either 3D graphics or 3D games

GIScience: Science related to the process of geographical information, from the geospatial data acquisition through modeling, geographical information processing, visualization, simulation, synthesis and analysis of the results.

Geospatial Data: Data with a geospatial reference, and an associated spatial reference system.

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