Three-dimensional Visual Attention Heatmap in Space: Measuring and Modelling Navigational Behaviours in Built Environment

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This paper aims to provide a tool for measuring and modelling visual attention in the three-dimensional environment, which could extend the capability of spatial analysis from two-dimensionality to three-dimensionality and present a brief cognitive understanding of pedestrian viewing behaviours by analysing recorded pedestrian navigational behaviours.

The overall hypothesis of this paper is that human’s navigational behaviours correlate with the visibility of objects in the space; for instance, the visibility of salient object influence pedestrian’s navigational behaviours exogenously or endogenously. Two hypotheses are stated: viewing behaviours could be measured and modelled in three-dimensionality by capturing data from reality. Visual attention heatmap was able to efficiently analyse the visual attention in three-dimensionality, and provide a satisfying result that proves that human’s viewing behaviours highly correlate with the visibility of objects in the environment.

The primary methodology of identifying which elements of a visual scene are the most influential in terms of how pedestrian navigate themselves in space is visual attention. Visual attention is the subjective perceptual quality some stimuli possess within a visual scene that affects pedestrians’ potential navigational behaviour. Visual attention can be seen as a numerical representation of objects in the space that attracts pedestrian’s attention.

We measured and visualised the navigational behaviour of 493 pedestrians moving freely in an interior space, including assessments of 3,158 head orientations taken from 3,960 sequential photos taken at the location. We then analysed the visual attention heatmap generated from grouped and individual viewing and navigating behaviours and compared that data with data observed at the site. The result of visual attention heatmap was able to achieve a convincible result of visual attention in three-dimensionality within an interior space by capturing data from reality, and a connection between present spatial analysis and visual attention was established by incorporating the visual attention heatmap purposed by this research.


Spatial perception, Visual attention, Space syntax, Pedestrian navigation, Viewing behaviours, Visibility graph analysis (VGA), Line of sight (LoS), Isovist, Wayfinding.


visual attention (180), visual attention heatmap (126), pedestrian navigational behaviour (63), navigational behaviour (50), head orientation (40)


Architecture, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Data Visualization and Analysis for design, Natural navigation, Simulation, Visual and Spatial Modelling.



Video Presentation:

Full text: Maciel, A. (Ed.), 2020. Design Computation Input/Output 2020, 1st ed. Design Computation, London, UK. ISBN: 978-1-83812-940-8, DOI:10.47330/DCIO.2020.QPRF9890