Immersive virtual product design (IVPD) is a relatively new practice. The practice of IVPD is a form of visualization and simulation. “Simulations are used for the testing and evaluation of performance in the early stages of product development” (Bao, Jin, Gu, Yan & Ma 2002, p. 593). IVPD allows “users to navigate and interact with 3D peripherals with the display system” (p. 592). IVPD has been used to virtually test designs and digital prototypes that otherwise would have to be evaluated by manufacturing a full scale physical model and, in fact, this method allows a designer to “design, simulate, prototype, and visualize the entire design in the digital world” (p. 594). This practice has alleviated cost concerns and time constraints with prototyping in that it eliminates the expense of manufacturing, supplies, and tooling. This virtual environment (VE) provides the opportunity for users to interact and participant with virtual objects in “an intuitive manner” (p. 592). There are four elements that are used in creating a virtual environment which are 1) Virtual reality, 2) Computer-aided design (CAD), 3) simulation, and 4) toolkits (Bao et al, 2002). The nature of the IVPD methods allows for the collection of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Two challenges are presented in the discourse of IVPD the first of which deals with model conversions. The process used in combination with the required software necessitate that the modeler work towards becoming an expert in the software. There are numerous software programs that can work to create a VE such as Maya and SketchUp. The second challenge is geometric modeling, which again requires the user to work towards even a basic understanding of how the formatting of the software works. Both of these challenges, which are associated with the “human-machine interactive technologies” (p. 593), are a result of the different file formats of the software available for IVPD practices. The framework of the immersive environment enhances the process of product design due to its allowance of “real-time interaction” and “reviewing of concept design” (p. 593). The system behind IVPD enables both design and evaluation. The user of an VE is equipped with a headset for virtual viewing and often with a wand or hand held device that simulates movement and navigation from the participants point of view.
Just as CAD has been used to create virtual environments that can be navigated and explored, these aspects are incorporated into the IVE. The benefit in using the IVE is that the file can be scaled to reflect varying proportions in relation to the head user and participants. This can be especially useful when design objects for children. With being able to manipulate the scale, an adult user can visualize the physical point of view that a child holds. However, that is the challenge of manifesting the child’s mindset in the adult user.
The research project will involve the documentation and investigation of creating a virtual environment that can be viewed and interacted with in a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE). This environment will allow for multiple versions of a product to be placed inside and viewed. The interactions to occur between users and the virtual objects will include such activities as lifting, moving, and rotating. The products to be tested are designed to specifically to be used by children ages 6-8. Through using the instrument of a CAVE, the scale of the environment will be adjusted to allow an adult user to see the objects from a children’s perspective. Using mathematical equations to calculate the scale variance, the scene can be adjusted to put the viewer in the position of the child’s point of view.
Through this study, I hope to demonstrate how product can be field tested using computer visualization and rendering programs. I seek to explore how a simulated virtual environment can enable a represented interaction with objects in a space. The objects to be tested in this research project are meant for use in a classroom where the object will be used by multiple users and repeated throughout the space resulting in about twenty instances of this object present in the virtual classroom at one time. The technology and representation will allow for the visualization of the repetition an object has on a space without having to manufacture and product the finished models in large quantities during the schematic and developmental phases of interior product design. This project is not meant to capture 2D images of a space but rather provide an interactive 3D virtual environment.
The scope of this research will include the modeling of this object. The environment will be used as the setting to test an object designed by the researcher in a Graduate studio course. The object is designed for use in an early elementary classroom. This project will involve the modeling of various classroom environments for the backdrop, and the marriage of these objects and environments in a third program that enables the ability for unlimited interactions. The limitations of the research will be marked by time constraints, as this project is to be completed over the course of the next two months, and the access to a CAVE environment for process and final viewings.
The anticipated expectation is that this research and design will result in a fully interactive virtual classroom environment that will allow a multitude of users to move the objects contained in the room around to view different seating positions, view different seating arrangements, view different colors, and view different classroom environments or backgrounds from a child’s point of view. The final results will be presented in a written document to allow for review by peers, designers, researchers.
Approach. The methodological approach is a participatory approach.
Constraints. With having to complete the project in a semesters time, there are strict time constraints for this study. The cost of using the DiVE will require financial funding.
Tools and techniques. The DiVE is an immersive virtual environment “is a 6-sided CAVE-like virtual reality theater” (Website). The DiVE claims that “[n]o text or video description can do justice to the DiVE, you must experience it yourself” (Website). More information can be found at http://vis.pratt.duke.edu/
Specific steps. A combination of software was used in this study including AutoCAD, SketchUp, Maya, and Virtool. AutoCAD is a drafting software that has been used to create the profiles for the object. These drawings were then imported into SketchUp, which is a 3-D modeling program. Once in SketchUp, the lines were turned into plans which were then extruded using the ‘push-pull’ tool. Once the basic shape was realized the shape was ‘booleaned’ to form contours. The final edges were smoothed away using the ‘follow me’ tool. The classroom background was created using SketchUp. The basic space was created using a combination of rectangles, push/pulls, and instances. The object and the environment were then both placed into Maya. Through Maya scripts were then added to the object to allow for animations. These scripts applied included gravity, physics, move, and rotate. The final documents created in Maya are then put into Virtool. Through Virtool the digital file is projected into the immersive virtual environment and ready for participant interaction.
Immersive Virtual Environment Organization. The software will open to one of four classroom configurations including: rows, pairs, circle, and stacked. These configurations were previously illustrated in a studio presentation and will be incorporated into this study to assess a users reaction to the products configurations. The initial document will open to a particular arrangement and during a ten minute familiarity period with the space the rest of the three arrangements will be introduced. This will work as a demonstration. The paradigm will consist of a 10 minute allotment for play and familiarity of user followed by a 20 minute study, where a user will have the opportunity to experiment with arrangements. The user will be observed throughout the session in a semi-participatory approach in which the researcher will accompany user. Once the thirty minute session is complete, the participant will exit and participate in a questionnaire.
Assessments Used. During the participation session, the following quantitative data will be collected: object orientation, patterns of movement, and patterns created. A qualitative questionnaire will be used and presented to participants immediately following their virtual product interaction session.
Bao, J., Jin, Y., Gu, M., Yan, J., & Ma, D. (2002). Immersive Virtual Product Development. Journal of Materials Processing Technology, 129, 592-596.