DIY Virtual Environments Workshop

The Do It Yourself Virtual Environment workshop (DIYVE) is one of the last workshops held in the first case study of Sub Project B. In the previous meeting (Interactive Demonstration Session) we described a VR tool chain that integrates with the tool chain of the case study company. One of the critical elements of the proposed tool chain is the creation of virtual environments by untrained (i.e. no specific 3D modeling training) designers. The main aim of the DIYVE workshop is to determine how well these untrained designers are able to create virtual environments. The workshop particularly investigates the designer’s translation of input material (e.g. photos, a floorplan or from memory) into output (the virtual environment). Creating this virtual environment is facilitated by an existing software tool.

Session Outline

After an introductory presentation a fifteen minutes tutorial of SweetHome3D, the tool used in the workshop, was carried out. After this, the participants (4 people from the design department) started to work on individual assignments. Each assignment requires a specific approach for the environment modeling. The first two assignments are relatively structured; participants translate concrete input into a virtual environment. The other two assignments require a more creative approach and rely on memory and imagination rather than concrete input
materials.

The participants worked on their assignment for about 90 minutes. While working on the environments, questions about the software applications were answered every now and then, but apart from that the process was mostly autonomous. Near the end of the workshop the results were collected and presented on a beamer. Each participant presented a short ’walk-through’ through their virtual environment, depicting specific parts of the environment and explaining some of their design decisions (see figure 2(b)). After these presentations and brief discussions the participants filled out the evaluation form.

A participant presenting her virtual environment in a 3D walkthrough

A participant presenting her virtual environment in a 3D walkthrough

Results

It was shown that from a multi-disciplinary group of design department representatives all four participants were able to create a virtual environment based on photos, floorplans, memory or imagination. The authoring tool used in the workshop turned out to provide sufficient support for the participants to quickly define room parameters, add walls, floors and basic furniture. Furthermore, the limited list of available 3D objects was sufficient for basic furnishing of the room. While various detailed user interface issues were identified, for instance related to 2D/3D navigation and access to the 3D object library, the tool was generally found to be appropriate for the task.

A virtual environment created by a participant

A virtual environment created by a participant

An important finding is that all participants, regardless of their workshop assignment, at some point expressed the need for more accurate 3D models. While the participants were able to solve these issues (e.g. by using on-line resources or alternative models), they indicated the need for 1) the ability to do simple object modelling tasks within the authoring tool, or 2) the ability to modify the objects from the provided model library. This is interesting, because during the previous interactive demonstration session the participants indicated that detailed (i.e. 1:1 match with reality) modelling is not really required for these environments.

What’s Next?

The next step in the case study is to further embed the virtual environment modelling task in the company’s design process. During the DIYVE workshop this modelling task was well received by the designers, in the sense that they recognise the added value of using the environments, and see how it could fit their future tool chain. The 3D models resulting from the DIYVE workshop will be used as input for a behaviour modelling task. This task, also part of the envisioned VR tool chain, adds behaviour and interaction to the created environments.