Virtual reality represents a fundamentally revolutionary way of interacting with computers. It also is a powerful new medium of expression that is still evolving and changing. In this paper, systematic studies of VR and its applications in the design are described. The major historical development of critical components constituting an updated and contemporary VR system is illustrated. Based on the advantages, disadvantages, and limitations found in the current development, potential methods of generating a design tool are explained to explore future possibilities.
It is hoped that by combining VR and the new information technology, VR can be used as a design instrument to increase creativity and as a research tool to meet the diversified information media challenges to be encountered in the 21st century. 1. Background Introduction Two terms are applied to the world of information technology: cyberspace and virtual reality. The term “cyberspace” was first used by William Gibson (1984) in the book entitled “Neuromancer” to illustrate the imaginary world experienced by engaging within a globally networked data space. Therefore, cyberspace indicates the data space of the computer. All data are entered by the system users. And virtual reality means the world users experience while using the data system. It involves more emotional situations than what cyberspace can offer. In this paper, the definition of virtual reality refers to the data space in which some subset of human senses can be stimulated and reflected.
Virtual reality (VR) environments provide an immersive experience in which participants wear tracked glasses to view stereoscopic images, listen to 3-D sounds, and are free to explore and interact within a 3-D world. As an advanced human-computer interaction and interface tool (Durlach and Mavor, 1995; Mine, 1995a; 1995b), it not only provides diversified media for visually, aurally, and interactively experiencing architectural design (Ellis, 1991a; 1991b), but also allows designers to perceive, grasp, and move three dimensional building elements in the VR space.
FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY IN DESIGN
Traditionally, architectural design begins with an idea. The two-dimensional concept is then sketched on paper, and a three-dimensional model is constructed to evaluate the designed product. This convention is very much culture-bound, and it limits stimulation and inspiration for idea generation. The phenomenon of providing diversity during a design yields the potential for improving design quality. In the design profession, diversity will broaden the personal vision, enrich the memory of mental images, and stimulate multidirectional thinking. Although architects have used a pencil-and-paper medium to translate ideas into physical products for generations, computer technology has revolutionized architectural representation during the past decade. A design product can be displayed on a computer from various angles with amazing visual effects. Changes are easy to make, and results can be shown instantly. The interactive nature of computer technology is an excellent teaching tool. Virtual reality promises even more. Users of virtual reality actually experience the environment created by the computer. Applying virtual reality in an architectural design studio, students can understand the spatial qualities of their own designs immediately, visualize the colour and texture of materials, comprehend the major components of the HVAC system, experience the proportion of the space, and appreciate the aesthetic of the structural elements. VR will make possible the expression and construction of ideas never before dreamed possible. Design studios taught in this fashion will be very effective.
Providing such VR environments at different locations and linking them together, designers can see and share information. If the system can collect data that is sent to different sites in different countries, designers would learn various design principles, methods, and processes inherited in various design cultures. Potential clients can visualize results and provide feedback instantly. Efforts to develop an interactive environment, in which design can be seen intermediately, will create a new world for the design profession to break with convention and improve quality. VR will not only change the way we communicate, but it might also change the way we think.