While there currently exists a great deal of research in the literature demonstrating various engineering applications for virtual reality (VR) and the benefits of these applications, VR adoption has been slow in part because of the high cost and resources required to setup and maintain the hardware for these applications. However, in the last 5 years, a new generation of VR hardware has emerged with cost and resource requirements which are a small fraction of previous hardware. This work begins with a survey of this newly available hardware summarizing recent advances for providing virtual input to all of the five human senses. The literature review then proceeds to highlight previous research into improving various aspects of the Engineering Design Process by using VR applications. The literature review concludes that given the significantly improved cost to benefit ratio of this new hardware, a tipping point has been reached where companies will see benefits from providing their engineering workforce with general access to VR hardware. From the conclusions drawn in the literature review, this work proceeds to explore and answer two main questions related to connecting and collaborating via this new VR hardware. The first question seeks to understand the trade-offs between cybersickness and disorientation from different styles of moving users in a collaborative VR environment (CVE). Since a CVE can be much larger than the physical world it is sometimes necessary to move the virtual participant which can cause cybersickness and disorientation. Understanding this trade-off is one key to creating a usable CVE. It is found that many users are willing to experience some mild cybersickness to significantly reduce the amount of disorientation experienced in a CVE. However, a second group of users are not willing to make this trade and hence require the ability to customize the CVE for their preferred trade-off between cybersickness and disorientation. The second question seeks to understand how a CVE with support for natural gestures can improve communication about complex 3D data over video conferencing which is the current standard for remote collaboration. It is found that such a CVE implemented with the latest low-cost consumer-grade VR hardware can improve communication speed up to 45% while also improving the accuracy of the communication. In addition, it was found that gestures in the CVE were much more effective and natural than mouse gestures in Skype, 93% of participants preferred the CVE over current video conferencing software, and 86% of participants stated they would like to have access to VR tools in their workplace.



College and Department

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



Date Submitted


Document Type





Virtual Reality, Collaboration, Communication, Engineering Design Process, Gestures, Head Mounted Display