Effectiveness of an Immersive Virtual Environment for Collaboration With Gesture Support Using Low-Cost Hardware

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Journal of Mechanical Design

The ASME Journal of Mechanical Design (JMD) serves the broad design community as a venue for scholarly, archival research in all aspects of the design activity.
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  • Effectiveness of an Immersive Virtual Environment for Collaboration With Gesture Support Using Low-Cost Hardware

    Joshua Q. Coburn, John L. Salmon and Ian Freeman
    J. Mech. Des 140(4), 042001 ; doi: 10.1115/1.4039006 

    Before the widespread use of modern computer systems, engineers worked in highly collaborative groups around large drawings tables. Today, the engineering design environment is more solitary, and collaboration often requires leaving the tools of the design environment. The highly distributed nature of today's workforce has caused a rapid proliferation of remote meetings and impeded the explanation of 3D information. While Virtual Reality (VR) has been proposed as a solution to these problems, the high cost and low availability of such systems has limited their impact. This paper presents a collaborative VR environment with support for hand gestures using readily-available, low-cost VR hardware. The environment allows multiple distributed participants to join a 3D virtual meeting, each with an independent view point, and walk around the virtual room to view the other participants as well as 3D engineering artifacts. The system supports natural communication gestures such as pointing, showing relative location, relative size, and orientation though physical hand motions. Additionally, participants can sketch in 3D using special input gestures. This allows for the communication of design concepts, design changes, and design issues. A user study is presented that demonstrates 45% faster communication compared against modern remote meeting software. Communication clarity and understanding are also improved. Future work will add deeper integration with modern engineering software and explore new design methods enabled by collaborative VR technology.  
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