ITcon Vol. 24, pg. 489-508,

Becoming familiar: how infrastructure engineers begin to use collaborative virtual reality in their interdisciplinary practice

submitted:August 2019
revised:October 2019
published:November 2019
editor(s):Amor R.
authors:Dr. Dragana Nikolić,
University of Reading, UK;

Dr. Laura Maftei,
University of Reading, UK;

Prof. Jennifer Whyte,
Imperial College London, UK;
summary:The design community has recently shown increased interest in using virtual reality (VR) in project review contexts. While single-user headsets currently attract most VR-related attention, room-like immersive VR environments can help facilitate design team engagement and shared exploration of projects. However, to date relatively little research concerns how large-scale VR environments are used in and adapted for professional practice. To address this gap, we set up a bespoke portable VR display system called 3D-MOVE in a major UK construction office to investigate how project team members used and evaluated collaborative VR processes. Over a three-month period, we conducted ten video-recorded VR sessions to observe how engineering professionals familiarize themselves with VR in order to help inform its deployment in practice. The study results show that emergent discussions about design models and questioning of design-related assumptions dominated all observed sessions, even though they were staged as technology demonstrations; which supports the social aspects of large-scale collaborative VR processes. However, before participants could focus on design review, they had to familiarize themselves with the VR technology and time required to do so varied depending on the complexity of the VR configuration. As the participants engaged with the VR environment, they reflected on their processes, requirements and expectations and provided feedback for improving the VR experience. Articulating this familiarization with collaborative VR can inform its deployment with respect to minimizing the learning curve and any distractions or discomfort associated with its use while maximizing the aspects of value-added collaborative engagement. Additional considerations concerning content, interactivity and logistics emerged as necessary to address before VR technologies can become standard practice.
keywords:virtual reality, collaboration, interdisciplinary design reviews, construction
full text: (PDF file, 1.011 MB)
citation:Nikolić D, Maftei L, Whyte J (2019). Becoming familiar: how infrastructure engineers begin to use collaborative virtual reality in their interdisciplinary practice, ITcon Vol. 24, pg. 489-508,