Using Immersive Virtual Reality in Design reviews

Presented by: Dr. Tilanka Chandrasekera

The use of Virtual Reality (VR) technology in Design and Design education is not new. Since its inception in the 60’s, VR has been employed by designers for communicating their design ideas (Frost & Warren, 2000; Whyte, 2003; Whyte, Bouchlaghem, Thorpe, & McCaffer, 2000). VR can be defined from a technology standpoint (associated hardware) as well as from an experiential standpoint (focusing on experiences such as immersion and presence). On a broader scale, VR is defined as “an alternate world filled with computer generated images that respond to human movements (Greenbaum, 1992, p. 58) or as “three dimensional realities implemented with stereo viewing goggles and reality gloves” (Krueger, 1991, p. xiii). With the advancement of technology, cost effective Virtual Reality has become available to designers and educators. With these new types of VR Head Mounted Display (HMD) systems as well as with improved tracking systems, a new paradigm in Virtual Reality named “Room Scale Virtual Reality” has extended the possibilities of VR to designers through better immersion. Immersion and Presence are two main topics that have been discussed with regard to how people experience Virtual Environments. According Sanchez-Vives and Slater (2005, p 333) immersion is the technical capability of the system to deliver a surrounding and convincing environment with which the participant can interact and Slater et al (1994) suggests that presence seems to have connotations of a subjective phenomenon and more related to the personal nature of how one perceived the virtual environment. The main objective of this study is to investigate the use of different types of HMD’s and to assess their immersiveness as well as to investigate the student’s perception of using VR in design education. This study also documents the use of VR in design reviews for early design studios. In this study 23 students from an early interior design studio in a south western university were provided with a simple design problem of designing a dorm room for two college students. The students were divided in to 6 groups, and were instructed to draw inspiration through a piece selected by the group from a Native American art exhibition that they visited. The students were instructed on using SketchUp and Unity 3D (a gaming engine) to develop an immersive virtual environment. 3 groups developed immersive VR environments for the Oculus Rift DK2 HMD, 2 groups developed immersive VR environments for the Oculus Rift CV1 HMD, and 1 group developed an immersive VR environment for the HTC Vive HMD. 6 reviewers were invited for the design review, of which 3 were interior design faculty members and 3 were faculty members without any design background. The students presented their projects using graphical presentation boards as well as the immersive VR environments. Students were provided with two types of questionnaires: A and B. Questionnaire A was developed to measure the sense of presence experienced by the students, using the IG group’s presence questionnaire (IPQ) and Witmer and Singers presence questionnaire (WS).Questionnaire B was developed to assess the perception of the technology by the students, using the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and the Simulator Sickness Questionnaire (SSQ). Reviewers were provided with a questionnaire that assessed the sense of presence as well as if there was any indication of simulator sickness for each group they reviewed. The results of the study provide information on how students perceived the use of immersive VR in their design process. The results also provided information on the difference in sense of presence provided by different head mounted display systems. The results suggest that in the domain of design, room scale VR provides a powerful medium in design representation, while enhancing the creative design process.


  • Fröst, P., & Warren, P. (2000). Virtual reality used in a collaborative architectural design process. Paper presented at the Information Visualization, 2000. Proceedings. IEEE International Conference.
  • Whyte, J. (2003). Virtual Reality and the Built Environment. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 12(5), 550-552.
  • Whyte, J., Bouchlaghem, N., Thorpe, A., & McCaffer, R. (2000). From CAD to virtual reality: modelling approaches, data exchange and interactive 3D building design tools. Automation in Construction, 10(1), 43-55.
  • Greenbaum, P. (1992). The lawnmower man. Film and video, 9(3), 58-62.
  • Krueger, M. W. (1991). Artificial reality II. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
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