Merging Three Spaces: Designing User Interface in Virtual Reality for Spatial Design

This thesis proposes a framework for designing a tool that provides architects with an alternative design environment. In this thesis, I conduct series of subject experiments, build a framework, and create and test a prototype with a unique user interface for virtual reality environment. Merging results from the experiments, this thesis will create a unique user interface that can enhance spatial design process in immersive virtual reality space.

The thesis starts by defining three spaces to be studied: intuitive physical space, projected digital space, and immersive virtual space. Three experiments are conducted for examining the differences and similarities in human perception amongst the three spaces in order to prove the following hypotheses.

  • Hypothesis 1: VR technology can simulate perception of scale and proportion of physical space with minimal error.
  • Hypothesis 2
    • 2-A: 3D model with realistic textures do not enhance the degree of perception for scale and proportion of the physical space;
    • 2-B: 3D model with realistic textures enhances spatial perception with greater confidence and shorter recognition time.
  • Hypothesis 3: Compared to a first person view in VR, a bird's-eye view mode in 2-D screen offers better perception of orientation and location of different objects.
  • Hypothesis 4: Compared to bird’s-eye view in 2D screen, the first person view mode in VR offers better perception of scale of objects.

Using results from experiments that tested the above hypotheses, the thesis sets up a framework for creating a user interface for VR. Results from hypothesis 1 supports that virtual space can replace physical space for spatial design purposes. Results from hypotheses 3 and 4 suggest that virtual UI should include both perspectives, bird-eye view and first person view. Finally, results from hypotheses 2 and 3 supports having two different modes of renderings. For dynamic interactions, such as between and among moving objects, the rendered mode should be texture-less for computational efficiency. For visual interactions, such as navigation, the space can be rendered with photo-realistic textures without losing efficiency. After the back-end for UI is framed, I prototype the UI in order to experience and test how design process can be enhanced.

This thesis aims to deliver a unique Virtual Reality User Interface (VRUI) for spatial design. This UI is derived from the way humans perceive physical, digital, and immersive virtual environments. This can provide a novel multidisciplinary design methodology for designers, whether they design for physical architecture or 3D environments for digital video games.