X3D-UML: user-centred design, implementation and evaluation of 3D UML using X3D

McIntosh, P 2009, X3D-UML: user-centred design, implementation and evaluation of 3D UML using X3D, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Computer Science and Information Technology, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title X3D-UML: user-centred design, implementation and evaluation of 3D UML using X3D
Author(s) McIntosh, P
Year 2009
Abstract This thesis presents an in-depth investigation into the practical use of 3D for software visualisation. This work presents the first comprehensive user-centred study which examines the software engineering tasks users undertake currently, the issues that 3D addresses and a measure of benefit of the 3D solution compared to traditional approaches. This thesis also presents a mechanism for creating 3D software visualisations, a refined evaluation methodology and visualisation heuristics that together provide a valuable resource for further research into this area.

The research results have been structured so they are directly applicable to industry and as such are already undergoing industrial adoption. This has been achieved through the following:

Firstly the research augments current and accepted software visualisation approaches by basing the visual notation on the Unified Modelling Language (UML). This has enabled the current visual software engineering tasks to be studied and for representative user tasks to be captured and quantified. The 3D visualisations then complement the current working practices by solving “real world” issues that are experienced using 2D visualisation approaches. These tasks are captured from both software development professionals and students working on software development projects.

Secondly the research is based on open standards and open source software. Our implementations are compatible with the X3D (eXtensible 3D) ISO standard and allow visualisations to be created and shared across X3D viewers. Further to this, as a result of user needs uncovered by this study, a specialised 3D UML viewer has been created based on OpenSceneGraph. These visualisation techniques have been defined, created and tested to work on standard desktop computers and integrated with software engineering tools currently utilised by the software engineering tasks.

Based on X3D, UML, actual tasks and data, with existing computers and tools, this thesis demonstrates that there is clear and measurable benefit in 3D UML software visualisation for industry. However, rather than explicitly stating simply that “3D for software visualisation is good”, outlined is a repeatable and structured approach to developing and evaluating 3D UML interfaces. The results demonstrate that through correct implementation positive aspects of 3D can be leveraged and negative aspects minimised.

The main focus of this study has been in the area of 3D UML state machine diagrams, also known as statecharts. These have been investigated in two main areas. Firstly they have been evaluated as an extension to IBM Rational Rose Technical Developer, also known as RoseRT, and the use of this extension evaluated in industry. Secondly they have been evaluated as an augmented reality extension, coined a “3D UML Mechatronic Diagram”, and the use evaluated against a student Lego robot project.

Although the focus of the study has been on 3D UML state machine diagrams, the methodology described is intended to be applicable to all UML diagrams and similar visual notations. In addition, the methodology adds value to researching 2D improvements to UML diagrams, as the use of 3D has been demonstrated as an effective framework for analysing problems with current diagrams.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Computer Science and Information Technology
Keyword(s) X3D-UML
UML
X3D
3D UML
Software visualisation
State machine diagrams
Statechart diagrams
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