This project has extended a Geomatics Master course by a part focusing on the development of Mixed Reality apps which visualize geographic data.
The project MobileHCI4GIS has extended the Geomatics Master course «Mobile GIS and Location-Based Services» with a part in which students acquire competences for the design and development of geodata-based applications for Mixed Reality glasses (Microsoft HoloLens). Mixed Reality user interfaces are particularly relevant for Geomatics because such interfaces enable the visualization and interaction with spatial information (e.g., maps or 3D city models), which is overlaid to real-world spaces.
A didactic concept was developed which – different to general programming courses – is particularly tailored to the pre-knowledge and interests of Geomatics students. In a combination of short lecture input, group work, and guided programming tutorials, students learned about the theoretical background of Mixed Reality, and gathered hands-on experience with preparing geographic data for Mixed Reality and integrating it into a HoloLens app. Particular emphasis was laid on the access to geographic data through web services, as well as on facilitating interaction with the data in HoloLens.
The students’ performance was measured with a graded assignment, in which students each developed an own Mixed Reality app showing a 3D model of the ETH Hönggerberg campus. Furthermore, the students’ task was to enhance the 3D model with geographic data from a web service, which had been collected in a location-based mobile phone game. The focus was on aspects such as the ability to live-query the online geographic data, and the usability of the Mixed Reality app. Since students had developed the location-based mobile game for collecting the geographic data as part of an earlier assignment, the Mixed Reality part became well integrated with the overall content and schedule of the course.
In two project phases, which include two cycles of the course (spring 2019 and spring 2020), the didactic concept was developed, executed, evaluated and improved. Overall, the evaluation showed that students are excited about working with Mixed Reality and think that they have acquired important competences for the Geomatics job market of the future. However, the students’ learning experience in spring 2020 was impaired by the unavoidable switch to online teaching during the COVID-2019 pandemics, which made it impossible to test the apps on physical devices. For the future, we envision switching to new devices (version 2 of HoloLens) and hope that we will again be able to offer physical access to devices to students.