Is Embodied Interaction Beneficial? A Study on Navigating Network Visualizations

Is Embodied Interaction Beneficial? A Study on Navigating Network Visualizations

Huang HH, Pfister H, and Yang Y.

Information Visualization, 2023.

Network visualizations are commonly used to analyze relationships in various contexts, such as social, biological, and geographical interactions. To efficiently explore a network visualization, the user needs to quickly navigate to different parts of the network and analyze local details. Recent advancements in display and interaction technologies inspire new visions for improved visualization and interaction design. Past research into network design has identified some key benefits to visualizing networks in 3D versus 2D. However, little work has been done to study the impact of varying levels of embodied interaction on network analysis. We present a controlled user study that compared four network visualization environments featuring conditions and hardware that leveraged different amounts of embodiment and visual perception ranging from a 2D visualization desktop environment with a standard mouse to a 3D visualization virtual reality environment. We measured the accuracy, speed, perceived workload, and preferences of 20 participants as they completed three network analytic tasks, each of which required unique navigation and substantial effort to complete. For the task that required participants to iterate over the entire visualization rather than focus on a specific area, we found that participants were more accurate using a VR HMD and a trackball mouse than conventional desktop settings. From a workload perspective, VR was generally considered the least mentally demanding and least frustrating to use in two of our three tasks. It was also preferred and ranked as the most effective and visually appealing condition overall. However, using VR to compare two side-by-side networks was difficult, and it was similar to or slower than other conditions in two of the three tasks. Overall, the accuracy and workload advantages of conditions with greater embodiment in specific tasks suggest promising opportunities to create more effective environments in which to analyze network visualizations.


We would like to thank our reviewers for their valuable comments. We would also like to thank all of our user study participants for their time and feedback. This work was partially supported by NSF grant III-2107328.