The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Mobile Three-Dimensional City Maps

Antti Nurminen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Information and Natural Sciences for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 10th of December, 2009, at 12 noon.

Overview in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-248-193-1)   [7717 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-248-192-4)


Maps are visual representations of environments and the objects within, depicting their spatial relations. They are mainly used in navigation, where they act as external information sources, supporting observation and decision making processes. Map design, or the art-science of cartography, has led to simplification of the environment, where the naturally three-dimensional environment has been abstracted to a two-dimensional representation, populated with simple geometrical shapes and symbols. However, abstract representation requires a map reading ability.

Modern technology has reached the level where maps can be expressed in digital form, having selectable, scalable, browsable and updatable content. Maps may no longer even be limited to two dimensions, nor to an abstract form. When a real world based virtual environment is created, a 3D map is born. Given a realistic representation, would the user no longer need to interpret the map, and be able to navigate in an inherently intuitive manner? To answer this question, one needs a mobile test platform. But can a 3D map, a resource hungry real virtual environment, exist on such resource limited devices?

This dissertation approaches the technical challenges posed by mobile 3D maps in a constructive manner, identifying the problems, developing solutions and providing answers by creating a functional system. The case focuses on urban environments. First, optimization methods for rendering large, static 3D city models are researched and a solution provided by combining visibility culling, level-of-detail management and out-of-core rendering, suited for mobile 3D maps. Then, the potential of mobile networking is addressed, developing efficient and scalable methods for progressive content downloading and dynamic entity management. Finally, a 3D navigation interface is developed for mobile devices, and the research validated with measurements and field experiments.

It is found that near realistic mobile 3D city maps can exist in current mobile phones, and the rendering rates are excellent in 3D hardware enabled devices. Such 3D maps can also be transferred and rendered on-the-fly sufficiently fast for navigation use over cellular networks. Real world entities such as pedestrians or public transportation can be tracked and presented in a scalable manner. Mobile 3D maps are useful for navigation, but their usability depends highly on interaction methods – the potentially intuitive representation does not imply, for example, faster navigation than with a professional 2D street map. In addition, the physical interface limits the usability.

This thesis consists of an overview and of the following 5 publications:

  1. Antti Nurminen. 2006. m-LOMA - a mobile 3D city map. In: Denis Gracanin (editor). Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on 3D Web Technology (Web3D 2006). Columbia, Maryland, USA. 18-21 April 2006, pages 7-18. © 2006 by author and © 2006 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). By permission.
  2. Antti Nurminen. 2007. Mobile, hardware-accelerated urban 3D maps in 3G networks. In: Osvaldo Gervasi and Donald Brutzman (editors). Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on 3D Web Technology (Web3D 2007). Perugia, Italy. 15-18 April 2007, pages 7-16. © 2007 by author and © 2007 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). By permission.
  3. Antti Nurminen. 2008. Managing dynamic entities in mobile, urban virtual environments. Journal of WSCG, volume 16, numbers 1-3, pages 113-120. © 2008 UNION Agency - Science Press. By permission.
  4. Antti Nurminen and Antti Oulasvirta. 2008. Designing interactions for navigation in 3D mobile maps. In: Liqiu Meng, Alexander Zipf, and Stephan Winter (editors). Map-Based Mobile Services: Design, Interaction and Usability. Springer. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography, chapter 10, pages 198-227. ISBN 978-3-540-37109-0. © 2008 by authors and © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media. By permission.
  5. Antti Nurminen. 2008. Mobile 3D city maps. IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, volume 28, number 4, pages 20-31. © 2008 IEEE. By permission.

Keywords: computer graphics, virtual environments, 3D maps, mobile computing, mobile networks

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© 2009 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26