Date of Award


Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Spatial Information Science and Engineering


Max J. Egenhofer

Second Committee Member

M. Kate Beard-Tisdale

Third Committee Member

Marcelo Gattass


Geographic information systems deal with the exploration, analysis, and presentation of geo-referenced data. Virtual reality is a type of human-computer interface that comes close to the way people perceive information in the real world. Thus, virtual reality environments become the natural paradigm for extending and enhancing the presentational and exploratory capability of GIs applications in both the spatial and temporal domains. The main motivation of this thesis is the lack of a framework that properly supports the exploration of geographic information in a multi-dimensional and multi-sensorial environment (i.e., temporal virtual reality geographic information systems). This thesis introduces a model for virtual exploration of animations. Virtual exploration of animations is a framework composed of abstract data types and a user interface that allow non-expert users to control, manipulate, analyze, and present objects' behaviors in a virtual-reality environment. In the model for virtual exploration of animations, the manipulation of the dynamic environment is accomplished through a set of operations performed over abstractions that represent temporal characteristics of actions. An important feature of the model is that the temporal information is treated as first-class entities and not as a mere attribute of action's representations. Therefore, entities of the temporal model have their own built-in functionality and are able to represent complex temporal structures. In an environment designed for the manipulation of the temporal characteristics of actions, the knowledge of relationships among objects' behaviors plays a significant role in the model. This information comes from the knowledge base of the application domain and is represented in the model through constraints among entities of the temporal model. Such constraints vary from simply relating the end points of two intervals to a complex mechanism that takes into account all relations between sequences of intervals of cyclic behaviors. The fact that the exploration of the information takes place in a virtual reality environment imposes new requirements on the animation model. This thesis introduces a new classification of objects in a VR environment and describes the associated semantics of each element in the taxonomy. These semantics are used to direct the way an object interacts with an observer and with other objects in the environment.