Commanders' Display of Terrain Information: Manipulations of Display Dimensionality and Frame of Reference to Support Battlefield Visualization.

Report No. ARL-CR-445
Authors: Banks, Rachel; Wickens, Christopher D.
Date/Pages: September 1999; 80 pages
Abstract: To gain a better understanding of the effects of display dimensionality and frame of reference on battlefield commanders' ability to understand the constraints of battlefield terrain, we constructed three electronic map displays, depicting both flat and mountainous terrain, and studied their effects on making various types of tactical judgments. U.S. Military Academy officers were presented with a two-dimensional (2D) contour display, a three- dimensional (3D) static, exocentric display, and a 3D interactive display of various battlefield situations (i.e., friendly and enemy units, travel paths, destinations) and were asked to make judgments regarding unit mobility across the depicted terrain, relative distances between units and or destinations, and line of sight (LOS) to specified locations. Officers were asked to make judgments as quickly and accurately as possible, while taking into account pre-defined mobility rules that had been distributed before the actual experimental session and were available throughout the study. In addition, officers were asked to provide verbal confidence ratings of having responded accurately to individual judgments. Results showed performance trade-offs in making the three tactical judgments, depending upon electronic map display format used. Distance judgments were best served by the 2D display, while the 3D interactive display best supported LOS judgments. Officers' performance in making mobility judgments was affected by the degree of vertical development of the depicted battlefield terrain. The relationship of participants' spatial ability to their performance in making tactical judgments and using interactive display capabilities is also discussed. When participants were provided with interactive viewpoint tools, there was a trend toward less frequent use (maneuvering) for officers with higher levels of spatial ability.
Distribution: Approved for public release
  Download Report ( 6.390 MBytes )
If you are visually impaired or need a physical copy of this report, please visit and contact DTIC.

Last Update / Reviewed: September 1, 1999