Abstract but Tangible, Complex but Manageable

M.K.D. Coomans, J.P. Leeuwen, van

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


In the VR-DIS research program, an innovative design-information modelling technique has been proposed that is based on features. In this modelling technique, the designer is invited not only to model the form and spatial aspects of his or her design, but also to model the structure of the data behind the design. The designer is offered a way to control how abstract design data is structured and stored. In this way, the designer is given the power to model concepts like conformity, contrast, and scale on the formal data level, and this for both graphical and non-graphical design characteristics. Further, the designer is invited to input formal descriptions of own design concepts, and use these personal concepts during the design process. With this new information modelling technique, we expect that the designers will be better capable to handle the complexity of linking diverse kinds of information involved in a design process. This new way of computer aided design offers a unique design freedom: any design concept becomes addressable. On the other hand, this technique also puts the responsibility for the content of the CAD database entirely in the hands of the designer. In order to be able to enjoy the design freedom fully and at the same time handle the responsibility over the design database, a computer tool is needed that shows the precise content of the database, and that is easy and quick to interact with. Only with such a tool, the designer will be capable of keeping the complex data model in pace with his or her design reasoning. To realise this requirement, a “feature browser” has been developed with a 3D graphical user interface. It shows the data objects as 3D blocks, mutually linked by rubber-band arrows that closely reflect the database structure. The whole forms an interactive 3D graph. The intuitiveness and user friendliness of the interface was improved by adding features like the visualisation of the browsing history, the visualisation of link-semantics, and animated visual feedback effects. The hardware part of the interface is worked out as a Fish Tank VR set-up. This hardware configuration improves the experienced realism of the displayed 3D objects up to a feeling of physical presence. The interface as a whole therefore provides a highly attractive display of the abstract design data; abstract but tangible. It is a tool in which complex data structures can be explored and controlled: complex but manageable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of AVOCAAD 2001
Place of PublicationBrussel
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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