Towards user empowerment in product design: a mixed reality tool for interactive virtual prototyping
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Designing new products according to user needs and requirements is a key success factor for companies. However, the characterization of user requirements in the early design stages is not an easy task due to the subjective nature of these requirements and because of the communication gap between users and designers. Digital design tools have the potential to enable users to actively participate in the design process and to directly interact with representations of the future product. Yet, they suffer a trade-off between their ability to accurately represent the user experience with the future product and their capacity to offer simple interfaces for the end user to manipulate. To overcome this issue, we introduce a new modular digital tool that allows users to become active participants of the design process through a high level of both immersion and control. The tool consists in a combination of a virtual reality environment for immersion and intuitive physical interfaces for direct control, resulting in a mixed reality hardware/software system. The hardware is made of modular tangible user interfaces (TUIs), custom-made by 3D printing and powered by a 3D game engine while the interactive content is displayed in virtual reality. The modularity of the system allows several TUIs and 3D content behaviours configurations to bring user friendliness and intuitively for each specific design project.
KeywordsUser/customer requirements Digital design tool Mass customization Mixed reality Tangible user interfaces
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