Furniture Designing within the Virtuality-Reality Continuum

Presented by: Tilanka Chandrasekera

Physical prototypes in design have been traditionally used to provide a representation of final design outcomes and to improve as well as obtain feedback on the design. However, Studies on physical prototyping or model making in design have shown to increase fixation (Christensen, and Schunn, 2007). Designers tend to fixate on the design during the time that they spend on making the physical prototype. Using virtual modeling techniques together with digital prototyping (3D printing) can be considered as an approach to alleviate any fixation effects caused through physical prototyping. While identifying digital prototyping as a valid method in problem solving this study explores the connection students make when translating a design idea through virtual, augmented and digital prototyping. Milgram and Kishino (1994) introduced the Reality-Virtuality continuum to explain the concept of the media spectrum that spans across physical space to Virtual Reality (VR). While VR is considered to be a computer simulated 3D environment, AR is an overlay of that virtual imagery over the physical space. This study looks at how VR, AR and digital prototyping can be used in interior design, as design development and design representational tools. In a previous study, two sections of an early interior design studio were recruited to observe their subjective perception of using digital prototyping (Chandrasekera and Yoon, 2015/ this study was presented at IDEC-2015). In that study students were provided with a simple interior design problem and as a part of that design problem they were asked to design a piece of furniture that corresponded to their overall design concept. Students used digital prototyping, and their subjective perceptions on technology use were recorded. In the current study one section of an early design studio (n=17) were provided with the same design problem, and used the sketchup software to model the 3D virtual models of the furniture piece. The students were then instructed to 3D print the model as well as create an Augmented Reality (AR) model of their furniture piece. The objective of this exercise was for the students to use virtual modelling techniques for design development, AR model for showing accurate proportions and material usage in the actual physical setting and digital prototyping to provide a tangible outcome of the design process, which showed intricate details and mechanics of the structure. The students used the 3D printed model as well as the AR model in their design review, where two design reviewers were invited. After the review, the students answered a questionnaire based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) regarding their use of digital prototyping and AR. The two design reviewers were also provided a questionnaire to explore the effect of using AR models and digital prototyping in design reviews. As an exploratory exercise the results were analyzed and the results reiterated the results from our previous study (Chandrasekera and Yoon, 2015) that student’s rate Perceived Usefulness (PU), Perceived Ease of Use (PEU) as well as Intention to Use in the future (IU), high for digital prototyping in interior design. The results also suggest that AR models provide an advantage for design representation and were rated high for PU, PEU and IU. Future directions in this study are seen in duplicating the study with more subjects. The results of the study are expected to contribute to design education in understanding the implication of using different mediums to express design intentions, and to better understand how different mediums provide means of alleviating fixation in the creative design process. The study also provides a case study of using alternate representational techniques in the context of design reviews. With the advent of new technology it is important to identify how the profession can adopt them to be used effectively and efficiently.


  • Chandrasekera, T., Yoon, S-Y (2015) Digital Prototyping in Interior Design: A Case Study in Interior Design Education, IDEC Exchange, Spring 2015
  • Christensen, B. T., & Schunn, C. D. (2007). The relationship of analogical distance to analogical function and preinventive structure: The case of engineering design. Memory & cognition, 35(1), 29-38.
  • Milgram, P., & Kishino, F. (1994). A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays.IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Information and Systems, 77(12), 1321-1329