Architectural Design CVE
|Home > UM School of Information > Independent Study > Project Report|
Independent Study Report: Collaborative Architectural Design Environment (CADE)
NOTE: The interactive vignettes below require a VRML
The architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry is lagging behind industrial design and aerospace with the use of synchronous distance collaboration tools. These tools are becoming a necessity as firms become globalized and air travel remains expensive and potentially dangerous. For this independent study, I set out to design and prototype a Collaborative Architectural Design Environment (CADE). The intent of this prototype was to explore some of the issues involved with real-time collaborative design over the internet. This was not intended to be a full-blown 3D modeling application. To that end, I purposefully used a simple metaphor of Froebel Blocks for the user interface. Froebel Blocks are used to teach children spatial concepts and are also used by architects to develop early design ideas. With this prototype, I explored the possibilities and limitations of this type of application. I conclude with lessons learned and directions for future work.
I began by reviewing the literature on collaborative virtual environments (CVE) and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW). I also look at some popular 3D modeling packages such as 3D Studio MAX and FormZ for interface standards. I was trying to distill the simplest possible shapes and modifiers to apply to the Froebel Block metaphor. This simplicity allowed me to develop a working prototype within a limited timeframe that could be tested with real users. I then developed a list of required features (Fig. 1) and created some paper prototypes (Fig. 2). The design process ran through a few iterations, as will be shown below, but this basic idea was maintained.
Finalizing The Design
After successfully loading the server and testing it on my early prototype (Fig. 3), I decided that the modifier menu across the bottom was too clunky. I did not think that users would make the connection between the menu and the objects themselves. Also, the X, Y, Z labeling does not map well to the potential users' mental model. I decided to rethink the modifier widgets and place them on the objects themselves. This follows current standards in 3D modeling and provides the user with immediate feedback of the modification (Fig. 5). I then added a grid to the floor plane to make it easier for users to locate themselves and objects within the space. I also added a "Load File" button that simulates the loading of an external file. This allows users to navigate through a finished space. I also added two human avatars to the system since the existing ones were inadequate. They are currently floating heads with no body. The head rotates with the user so others can see what they are currently looking at (Fig. 6). Future versions will include full-body avatars with gestures such as pointing (the VRML link supplied below does not include avatars or the client applet).
The following is a list of functions that are currently available in the system.
1. Create Object: A limited
amount of basic forms can be created, including cube, column, and dome.
There is no explicit turn taking or object locking; each user can create and modify objects simultaneously. Also, each user can select and modify another user's objects. Future versions will include an "ownership" feature which will allow objects to be locked unless they are specifically selected to be shared.
I ran some ad hoc user tests on the final version of the system. The following is an initial list of usability issues to address for future versions
- The "Disconnect" button on
the applet is too large and was mistaken for the chat "send".
The following are three sample videos from the user test (Quicktime required):
The current version of CADE represents a small move towards synchronous collaborative environments for architectural design. However, much work remains to be done before this type of application could be used in a real-world working environment.
Short Term Goals
There are many possible uses for this type of application, a few are listed below.
Long Term Goals and Possible Uses
copyright © Thomas Vollaro 2003