Unlocking the Use of VR in Manufacture and Design
The goal of VR+4CAD is to address a series of recurring limitations that prevent a wider adoption of VR by the manufacturing and design industries:
The restriction of VR to a one-directional visualization-only solution, rather than being an integral part of the design loop.
The barriers between users and the VR experience, particularly when aiming for full-body interaction, where a gear-up procedure stands in the way of immediate interaction.
The inability to exploit VR for a human-centered design process where users can not just interact with a design, but where their interactions are also analyzed for feedback.
Current VR products insist more on the graphical aspects and the VR revival momentum rather than focusing on the real implications and potential of VR. VR+4CAD goes in a novel, partially unexplored and challenging direction which, if proven successful, would open new business opportunities.
Our aim is to produce a core framework that provides potential solutions for fostering a new cycle of collaborations and developments with industrial partners built on top of the outcomes of the present work. Specifically, we target CAD-authored design to be automatically converted and adapted for (virtual) human interaction within a virtual environment.
Interaction is made more immediate by means of an experimental, markerless motion capture (mocap) system that relieves the user from having to “suit up” in order to be captured. The data acquired by the mocap system during each experience is analyzed via Human Activity Recognition (HAR) techniques and transformed into implicit feedback. Both explicit and implicit feedback are merged and sent back to the CAD operator for the next design iteration.
The VR+4CAD loop from original CAD design to the annotated design back to CAD
VR+4CAD impacts several aspects of the typical product design phases. The possibility to test a specific design without the need to create a real physical prototype is an advantage reducing the amount of work needed, as well as the overall time to market, leading to clear economic benefits. And at the ecological/sustainability level reducing the reliance on such physical prototypes has clear benefits in terms of material, logistics and the energy consumed for their production and ultimate disposal. A virtual workflow also enables the risk-free evaluation of designs which may otherwise pose a danger to the user if operated incorrectly.
The fully virtual workflow inherent to the VR+4CAD concept also extends to remote development, thus reducing traveling and logistics requirements. Further, thanks to the feedback provided by HAR, the prototype converges towards the final product in fewer iterations, as the automatic annotation brings an additional objective layer of information to the designer.
Leading to More User-Centric Design based on Early-on Data-rich Evaluation
At the social level, the project methodology is expected to contribute to reducing inequalities already at the design phase, as VR technology puts the prototypes in the virtual world and leads to several benefits:
A virtual workflow allows for early-on User Acceptance Testing (UAT), providing insights into potential skepticism, fear, biases and resistance that may exists towards adoption of a design in the real world.
Designs in a virtual space can be more easily iterated on to account for physical differences between users, such as height, age and physical disability.
Implicit annotation via HAR can provide valuable unspoken information about a user-experience. Either adding to the explicit information provided by the user or even enabling the evaluation of user categories which may have difficulties providing explicit feedback such children.