The Virtual Tübingen project was motivated by the emerging need for a naturalistic, controllable environment for investigating human spatial cognition. The goal is to build a highly realistic virtual model of Tübingen through which one can move in real time. This project builds on experience with Virtual Reality and Navigation gathered in this lab over the past couple of years and serves as a clear example of the approach that we have outlined above.
There are many obvious and less obvious reasons to choose Tübingen as a model for our virtual city. The first major reason relates to the observation that the center of Tübingen has a rather complicated structure: there are considerable height differences, the streets often tend to be curved and have varying width, the houses are all different and have complicated facades and so on. This complexity is expected to contribute a lot to the degree of realism that we are seeking for. Furthermore, the high complexity does provide a much more interesting environ- ment for running navigation experiments than highly regular cites like e.g. New York City do offer. The second major reason is that we would like to pursue a high degree of photo-realism, which is possible using real pictures and high-quality texture mapping. This process of making pictures and having access to architectural data is of course easiest for the local town. This is rather important, because at least during the initial phase of this project being able to go back into town and make new pictures or get some new data from the city hall made life a lot easier. Secondary reasons include the fact that modeling the local town makes it easy to find people who are well trained in navigating through the real version of Tübingen.