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Title: Vice : an interface designed for complex engineering software : an application of virtual reality
Author: Taylor, Mark John
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 2791
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2005
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Concurrent Engineering has been taking place within the manufacturing industry for many years whereas the construction industry has until recently continued using the 'over the wall' approach where each task is completed before the next began. For real concurrent engineering in construction to take place there needs to be true collaborative working between client representatives, construction professionals, suppliers and subcontractors. The aim of this study was to design, develop and test a new style of user interface which promotes a more intuitive form of interaction than the standard desktop metaphor based interface. This new interface has been designed as an alternative for the default interface of the INTEGRA system and must also promote enhanced user collaboration. By choosing alternative metaphors that are more obvious to the user it is postulated that it should be possible for such an interface to be developed. Specific objectives were set that would allow the project aim to be fulfilled. These objectives are outlined below: To gain a better understanding of the requirements of successful concurrent engineering particularly at the conceptual design phase. To complete a thorough review of the current interfaces had to take place including any guidelines on how to create a "good user interface". To experience many of the collaboration systems available today so that an informed choice of application can be made. To learn the relevant skills required to design, produce and implement the interface of choice. To perform a user evaluation of the finished user interface to improve overall usability and further streamline the concurrent conceptual design. The user interface developed used a virtual reality environment to create a metaphor of an office building. Project members could then coexist and interact within the building promoting collaboration and at the same time have access to the remaining INTEGRA tools. The user evaluation proved that the Virtual Integrated Collaborative Environment (VICE) user interface was a successful addition to the INTEGRA system. The system was evaluated by a substantial number of different users which validates this finding. The user evaluation also provided positive results from two different demographics concluding that the system was easy, intuitive to use with the necessary functionality. Using metaphor based user interfaces is not a new concept. It has become standard practise for most software developers. There are arguments for and against these types of user interfaces. Some advanced users will argue that having such an interface limits their ability to make full use of the applications. However the majority of users do not come within this bracket and for them, metaphor based user interfaces are very useful. This is again evident from the user evaluation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available