Synthetic Environments

Developers of complex products these days face increasing challenges to keep pace with the market. Strong competitors require minimal time-to-market and development costs, whilst consumers impose increasing demands on product performance, safety and usability. Under these circumstances, successful product development becomes increasingly dependent on a company’s power to support its development process with innovative and distinguishing tools and methods.

Making early substantiated assessments of the implications of design decisions is a critical activity in complex product development processes. It makes high demands on the capabilities of stakeholders to imagine future product behaviors. This brings about a risk for misinterpretations, misunderstandings and false estimations. Costly back loops in the course of the process or even failing market introductions are the result. To lower these risks, we propose to introduce dedicated employments of Virtual Reality tools early in the course of the development process. In so-called Synthetic Environments, involved stakeholders then can share and experience explicit virtual product behavior.

Due to the enormous differences between companies and their individual design processes, the effects of introducing specific Virtual Reality tools in a development process will differ greatly. On the other hand, the opportunities are merely limited by the creativity of a company’s employees. The key to finding advantageous employments is to make efficient use of documented knowledge gained with Virtual Reality in product development. Within the project, a knowledge analysis procedure is developed that defines the course of actions needed to define well-supporting Synthetic Environments.

In product development, both the development process and its content consist of many uncertainties. The value of a proposed Synthetic Environment therefore can only be substantiated relative to explicit representations of a future development process. These representations are defined by scenarios.

Contact information

Jan Miedema, MSc / Phone: +31 (0) 53 489 3192 / j.miedema@utwente.nl

Jan Miedema (1979) obtained his Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Twente in 2005. For his master thesis, he developed an information model for capturing product functions. His model supports the development of automatic what-if analysis tools for managing product configuration changes. During his master’s assignment, Jan got interested in the science of improving the often fairly traditional product design process. Following his master study, he therefore started his PhD on the application of Synthetic Environments in product design processes. In his research, Jan aims at developing a decision support system for determining how the application of specific Virtual Reality aids can improve design process performance. The system is intended to support primarily SME’s. To overcome the inherent issues of time and money, Jan introduces the use of scenarios as a way to improve the credibility of low-fidelity, affordable, off-the-shelve VR hardware and software.