The feasibility of using virtual prototyping technologies for product evaluation
thesisposted on 28.11.2014, 13:31 authored by Roland A. Barge
With the continuous development in computer and communications technology the use of computer aided design in design processes is becoming more commonplace. A wide range of virtual prototyping technologies are currently in development, some of which are commercially viable for use within a product design process. These virtual prototyping technologies range from graphics tablets to haptic devices. With the compression of design cycles the feasibility of using these technologies for product evaluation is becoming an ever more important consideration. This thesis begins by presenting the findings of a comprehensive literature review defining product design with a focus on product evaluation and a discussion of current virtual prototyping technologies. From the literature review it was clear that user involvement in the product evaluation process is critical. The literature review was followed by a series of interconnected studies starting with an investigation into design consultancies' access and use of prototyping technologies and their evaluation methods. Although design consultancies are already using photo-realistic renderings, animations and sometimes 3600 view CAD models for their virtual product evaluations, current virtual prototyping hardware and software is often unsatisfactory for their needs. Some emergent technologies such as haptic interfaces are currently not commonly used in industry. This study was followed by an investigation into users' psychological acceptance and physiological discomfort when using a variety of virtual prototyping tools for product evaluation compared with using physical prototypes, ranging from on-screen photo-realistic renderings to 3D 3600 view models developed using a range of design software. The third study then went on to explore the feasibility of using these virtual prototyping tools and the effect on product preference when compared to using physical prototypes. The forth study looked at the designer's requirements for current and future virtual prototyping tools, design tools and evaluation methods. In the final chapters of the thesis the relative strengths and weaknesses of these technologies were re-evaluated and a definitive set of user requirements based on the documentary evidence of the previous studies was produced. This was followed by the development of a speculative series of scenarios for the next generation of virtual prototyping technologies ranging from improvements to existing technologies through to blue sky concepts. These scenarios were then evaluated by designers and consumers to produce documentary evidence and recommendations for preferred and suitable combinations of virtual prototyping technologies. Such hardware and software will require a user interface that is intuitive, simple, easy to use and suitable for both the designers who create the virtual prototypes and the consumers who evaluate them.