Building a WebVR environment to bring historical shipping data alive

  • Luis Calisto (Speaker)
  • Ieva Dobraja (Contributor)
  • Yuhang Gu (Contributor)
  • Weber, A. (Contributor)
  • Jelle van Lottum (Contributor)
  • Marti Huetink (Contributor)
  • Kraak, M. (Contributor)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The main objective of this presentation is to show techniques and technology that enable the proper display, exploration and analysis of spatio-temporal data using the WebVR environment. Which techniques and technology can we use to create Virtual Reality (VR) environments? What is the added value of VR for spatio-temporal data exploration compared with the traditional Web? How can we create a FOSS based WebVR geo environment? These are some questions we would like to answer. For this case study we used A-Frame framework with several customized A-Frame components and a data set about ships and crew members from Prize Paper archive. The digitized interrogations of the Prize Papers are a vast and valuable collection of judicial documents, private and official letters, shipping lists and ledgers covering the period between 1652 and 1815. They provide an insight on trade routes, about what commodities were shipped, migration patterns of maritime personnel, the scope of merchant networks and about labour relations on board. The display of all this data quickly leads to visual clutter. Data representation in VR might partly overcome this problem and help us to see and explore spatio-temporal patterns of the movements. One advantage of VR environment is the unlimited space which can be used for data representation during the interaction process with data. Therefore, in VR we can combine several dashboards in a single environment. In addition to this, the user may create additional dashboard views representing information of interest in more detail. Although WebVR is a recent technology and not many frameworks/libraries exist at the moment, we can see the power of it in displaying and analyzing spatio-temporal data. With some limitations it’s possible to create spatio-temporal WebVR environments using current FOSS technology. The possibility of having the user surrounded by data representations can give a better and faster experience compared with normal Web. Usability research of the new environment is foreseen in a follow up study.
Period31 Aug 2018
Event titleFree and Open Source Software for Geospatial, FOSS4G 2018
Event typeConference
LocationDar es Salaam, Tanzania, United Republic ofShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Virtual reality
  • GIS
  • WebVR
  • FOSS
  • A-Frame
  • Prize papers