Maps provide a convenient and familiar visual abstraction to understand spatial relationships of geographical regions. Maps deliver spatial concepts of scale, proximity, and layout. However, in their current forms, both digital and physical maps present shortcomings. While digital maps allow interactive behavior, their sizes are limited to the physical footprint of the screen of the laptop, smartphone, or other digital device. Physical maps are limited in their overlay of information and do not provide interaction mechanisms. To this end, we present Coordinate, a spreadsheet-programmable visualization framework for immersive map visualizations through augmented reality (AR) that provides interactive digital information overlays atop physical maps.
We design our framework with priority on simplicity and ease of use; users simply upload spreadsheets to a website to program the content of the augmented reality map overlays. Groups of users can simultaneously view and interact with AR overlays through their smartphones, tablets, or headsets while moving and conversing around a unified physical map.
We are currently using Coordinate to visualize university partners in industry in the local area. Here, we speculate on further use cases where immersive map- based visualization would be helpful. Coordinate can also provide a software solution for city planners to communicate location-based data in an easy-to-understand way. Statistics of housing prices, crime rates, job growth, and other relevant information can be filtered and displayed over the same physical map. Local business owners and citizens can join the urban planners in discussions that drive insight that can shape decisions.