Spring 2020 - GEOG 356 D100

3D Geovisualization (4)

Class Number: 3183

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 12:30 PM – 2:20 PM
    WMC 3220, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 23, 2020
    3:30 PM – 6:30 PM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby

  • Instructor:

    Nicholas Hedley
    1 778 782-4515
    Office: RCB 7229
  • Prerequisites:

    GEOG 255.



3D geovisualization methods, concepts and theory. Bridges conventional geographic visualization with emerging 3D methods. Emphasizes user-centered design and cognitive implications.


Course Description       
Emerging technologies are changing the way we generate digital representations of geographic spaces.

Modern methods of 3D data acquisition (i.e. 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry) have become industry standards, delivering powerful 3D characterizations of geographic space and revealing new opportunities to create 3D analytical geovisualizations.  3D spatial data proficiency is going to become a critical skill as industry and science adopt game engines, virtual environments and mixed reality interfaces as new spatial interface standards.

This course trains students how to design and build analytical 3D geovisualizations for applied geographic problems, using 3D data, analysis, visualization and interfaces. This course prepares students for an emerging new world of geovisual analysis and communication in GIScience.

In GEOG 356, we will explore (and try!) a range of contemporary and emerging 3D visualization technologies for geovisualization and critically review their properties and potential in geospatial applications. You will learn how to capture geographic phenomena in 3D using a range of methods, including: 3D scanning; Structure-from-Motion (SfM); LiDAR and UAVs (drones). We will explore the workflows needed to build 3D GIS and 3D geographic virtual environments from these data types. I will show you how to design and build a variety of 3D geovisualizations using a range of analysis and simulation methods. You will get to experience 3D data visualizations (including your own), using virtual and mixed reality interfaces. We will consider all of these experiences through the perspectives of geovisualization, GIScience, spatial cognition and interface research.

Newly reworked for Spring 2020, GEOG 356 provides students of many backgrounds with an introduction to the rapidly emerging fields of 3D geographic visualization and 3D GIScience, gaining first-hand experience with 3D data and its use, 3D geovisual analysis and simulation. Students will be introduced to thinking about spatial problems and phenomena in three dimensions. We will explore the capabilities of 3D data capture, 3D representation, 3D spatial analysis and simulation, interaction and interpretation of 3D visualizations.  

We will explore questions such as: How do we design and perform 3D spatial data surveys using laser scanners, drones, and underwater sensors? What types of data do they produce? What can we do with these data? What sorts of analysis, and simulations are possible? What new forms of 3D geovisualization can we implement? How can 3D data, representation, visualization and analysis be applied to challenges in fields that span the whole spectrum of spatial phenomena? How are these emerging technologies and methods defining future 3D GIScience?

Students will be guided through 3D geovisual GIScience skill-building activities – focused through applied problem-solving contexts tuned to students who take this course. These may include: environmental change; social science; human dynamics; urban development; archaeology and cultural heritage; Earth science; natural hazards; data from Mars; and many more!

Course Content This class is designed as an accessible, experiential course for a wide range of students – organized in a modular format. Lectures and labs will be used flexibly to introduce and demonstrate 3D concepts, data, methods, visual analysis and interface technologies. Assignments have been newly designed to be achievable in students’ busy schedules, while delivering rich training and experience with 3D data, visualization and interaction. In week 1, students will be polled, in order to tune content and activities to their interests and objectives. Students will learn how to design and produce 3D visualizations for presentation and communication  of spatial phenomena to academic and public audiences. students will learn how to generate, process and use 3D data from laser scanning, UAVs (drones) and other platforms. Students will learn how to generate 3D representations of a variety of spatial phenomena, using a range of 3D data formats. Students will learn how to perform 3D spatial analyses and simulations. Students will get first-hand experience 3D data-driven 3D visualization using emerging 3D interface technologies – specifically virtual reality and mixed reality. Students in this course will be supported by assigned readings, discussion, position papers, hands-on exercises, demonstrations of 3D methods and interface technologies, and applied examples.

Course organization One 2-hour lecture per week to introduce concepts, methods, demonstrations. One 2-hour lab session per week for hands-on training in methods, labs and course assignments, and demonstrations. Lectures and labs will be used flexibly to introduce and demonstrate 3D concepts, data, methods, visual analysis and interface technologies.

GEOG 255 (note that GEOG 356 is prerequisite for GEOG 457 Geovisualization Interfaces)


Students completing this course, students will be:

a) knowledgeable about how emerging geovisualization technologies raise new opportunities for representing and visualizing geographic spaces;
b) experienced in the planning, design, field strategy and implications of 3D spatial data capture, using 3D laser scanning (LiDAR); UAVs (Drones); Structure-from-Motion (SfM); and other 3D capture technologies;
c) experienced in a range of 3D geovisualization technologies (incl. 3D GIS; 3D game engines repurposed to spatial analysis and visualization; virtual environments; augmented reality);
d) trained in how to design and implement 3D geovisualizations of their own;
e) able to combine 2D and 3D spatial analysis with interactive 3D visualization systems;
f) trained in multi-platform workflow to develop 3D geovisualizations;
g) trained in spatial project design and management skills;
h) able to integrate 3D spatial data and geovisualization methods and thinking into their future work.


  • Hands-on lab activities/assignments 50%
  • An applied ‘geoviz mini project’ 25%
  • An exam 25%


Grade Scale:

A+ 97 or higher
A 91-96  
A- 85-90  
B+ 80-84  
B 75-79  
B- 70-74  
C+ 65-69  
C 60-64  
C- 55-59  
D 50-54  
F 0-49  



There is no primary textbook for this course. We will use journal articles available through SFU library. Reading assignments and support materials will be provided throughout the semester. Labs will begin Week 2.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html