Virtual Reality as a Powerful Design and Development Tool

virtual reality

DDSTUDIO is a boutique product design firm with seasoned multidiscipline talent and a proven track record of achieving best in class product innovation. Our formula for success includes deep client collaboration, commitment to the design process and insight about the latest materials, cultural trends and emerging technologies.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are examples of emerging technologies that DDSTUDIO has explored as potential tools for our Client’s products by testing the technology internally during the Design Process. Our team quickly saw that VR and AR offer multiple benefits including: User Empathy, Deeper Contextual Understanding, Efficiencies in Concept Refinement and Client Team Alignment.

Real time Empathy (No More Fuzz)

A recent project that demonstrated the benefits of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Design Development was in the transportation industry.  The setting included a payment experience within multiple environments including some very large scale environments. David Glazier, DDSTUDIO Director of UX Strategy explains that we’ve reached a new age of Design Driven Product Development. Virtual Reality technology enabled a more accessible format for the client, designers and engineers to participate in the User Experience firsthand and develop deep “Empathy” for their customer. This immersive perspective created a collaborative platform for everyone involved creating an outcome of greater value and purpose.

Our client could be the traveler in context by interacting with the graphical user interface, paying for a ticket, and walking through the gate. The ability to observe that specific traveler’s perspective made the design decisions immediately credible.

User Experience is part of the first development engagement phase when time is spent learning about the product journey from the user’s perspective using tools such as research and observation. These insights include deeper understanding of the physical, behavioral and emotional needs, as well as identifying opportunities for important unmet needs. While these insights frequently contribute to the “aha” moment for the product or experience, the client sometimes has difficulty understanding or appreciating the “user experience” as a whole. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality help solve this ambiguity, by providing a solid framework and bridging the gap between fuzzy and understood.

Deeper Contextual Understanding

Virtual Reality enabled the DDSTUDIO team to quickly transport our client’s concept review meeting from a one dimensional, static PowerPoint presentation into a 3D interactive experience in an authentically simulated environment. We were able to walk our client through the series of concepts and explain deliberate design decisions and comparisons in real time. This clarified product attributes and modifications in context of the experience based on concrete insights learned through research in the previous phase. The DDSTUDIO team even simulated moving trains, lights and sounds into the Virtual Reality which made the experience instantly believable and actionable. The client was ecstatic!

Concept to Refinement Efficiency  

A typical product Concept Phase moves from development to refinement after a series of feedback sessions with various client stakeholder who down select to their favorite directions. Initial concepts are sketched by Industrial designers then entered into CAD software where the designer confirms the internal component layout and any other constraints from the brief.  At the same time, User experience and Interaction designers are evaluating the level of intuitive design and looking for opportunities to refine and exploit their delight.   Engineering is analyzing the enclosure concepts for mechanisms, attachments, materials and manufacturing processes. This attention to detail and implementation consideration results in models that are proportionally accurate and manufactural. By adding Virtual Reality, our client can provide immediate feedback because the Virtual Reality version is an exact replica in proportion to the surrounding environment facilitating deep contextual understanding.  (To increase the aspect of reality even more, the DDSTUDIO team offers a physical tool that allows the client to physically interact with the model moving the virtual reality to augmented reality.) The technology combination delivers a canvas for all departments to provide high level input, eliminate the need for multiple session and achieve a level of synergy that improves the overall quality in the refinement stage. Another client benefit of VR is that the design and engineering team are on hand to respond to questions about the impact any of concept modifications as they relate to budget and schedule. The client can then prioritize as a team to align with their company’s vision to confidently satisfy constraints and their customer.

Global Alignment

Virtual Reality delivers a new internal communication and alignment vehicle for our clients.  All departments in any location can experience the concepts in the same meeting and point out what’s important from their department’s perspective. Suddenly engineering understands the marketing department’s initiatives, mechanical engineering learns how the software team’s graphical user interface can enhance their functional decisions, senior management sees the synergistic exchange and is more confident to invest in the next phase of the project.

As Experience Designers, we design products and services from the human engagement perspective (users frame of reference), to identify and prioritize the user needs in context and then thoughtfully integrate the most appropriate blend of technology cultural trends and materials to achieve the most relevant “best in class” product solution.

Let DDSTUDIO use Virtual Reality to elevate the quality of your next Product Design and Development engagement and achieve “best in class” status for your next product!