Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mechanical Engineering


Human Computer Interaction

First Advisor

Judy M. Vance


Since its conception over fifty years ago Virtual Reality (VR) has shown great promise to enhance the product design process. In the last twenty years alone, VR has seen remarkable growth in capability and adoption in industry. Technical advancements, in both software and hardware, enable designers and engineers to conceptualize, design, explore, and evaluate product designs virtually; without the need for physical prototypes. Because the product design process consists of thousands of questions, it is important to investigate how virtual reality can facilitate and support decision making within this process.

The goal of this research is to investigate the current state of decision making in the product design process using immersive computing environments. From the results, a new design approach is proposed that integrates normative and descriptive methodologies. Concrete instances of the proposed design approach are illustrated to guide future research.

The research begins with an in-depth industry survey which identifies and describes salient VR practices and trends. The survey is complemented by an examination of a case study involving a real-life design review in VR. Next, a new design methodology leveraging both descriptive and normative design approaches and implemented in a virtual environment is proposed. The method outlines a process that efficiently integrates natural human interaction (descriptive) with complex quantitative analysis (normative) to support decision making in the product design process. The result is a design environment that leverages the unique characteristics of VR to support decision making.

Outcomes of this work suggest that VR is being actively applied to a myriad of product design challenges across a variety of disciplines. Through immersive visualization and interaction, users can achieve a stronger understanding of product designs. The integration of descriptive and normative approaches results in a synergistic and cyclical design process in which the strengths of one approach complements the weaknesses of the other. Future research will investigate new and novel approaches to better support the product design process.


Copyright Owner

Leif Peder Berg



File Format


File Size

165 pages