Leveraging virtual reality (VR) technology to enhance engineering design reviews has been an area of significant interest for researchers since the advent of modern VR. The ability to interact meaningfully with 3D engineering models in these VR design reviews is an important, though often neglected, capability due to the difficulty of performing data translation between native CAD data and VR compatible file formats. A bi-directional interface was developed between a VR design review environment and a commercial CAD package that streamlines the data translation process. By transmitting both geometric data and selected metadata from the CAD system an improved format for the VR model was achieved and enhanced model interaction tools were added to the VR design review application. The suite of model interaction tools developed include component hiding, exploded views, and the ability to parametrically update the model directly from the VR environment. Preliminary user experiments were performed once an early prototype of the system was in place. These experiments guided the remainder of the development and the experimental setup for the final set of experiments. Final user experiments were performed to validate the usefulness of the bi-directional interface concept and the system developed, as well as to establish the importance of enhanced model interaction in VR engineering design reviews. The experiments performed were composed of two tasks: One task aimed at exploring how CAD integration and advanced interaction tools in VR design reviews aid understanding of model geometry and design comprehension and a second task that explores how the ability to preview design changes from the VR design review environment improves decision making. In the first task participants were shown a model of a complex gearbox and asked to count the number of gears. Participants performed this test on two different models: once with the enhanced toolset and once with a baseline toolset representative of the current state of the art that only allows users to pan, rotate, and scale a shaded monochrome version of the model. In the second task participants were given a model of a four cylinder internal combustion engine and asked to determine the feasibility of three proposed design changes based on whether the changes would cause interference in the model. Again, participants performed this test with two different models, once with each toolset. The analysis of the data from these experiments showed that participants were significantly more successful at understanding the geometry of the model when using the enhanced toolset. The data also showed that the enhanced toolset often boosts users' confidence in their understanding, and can help users to understand the design more quickly. Data from the second task showed that the enhanced environment can also help users to better and more confidently understand the implications of a proposed design change, which can lead to improved decision making. The work presented here builds the foundation for the bi-directional interface concept to be extended to further applications that can enable advanced interaction with a diversity of engineering data in VR.



College and Department

Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology; Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





CAD, Virtual Reality, Engineering Model Interaction