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By : Ming Tang,Dihua Yang

Having been a promising visualization tool since 1950s, ironically, virtual reality is not widely used in the architectural design and evaluation process due to several constrains, such as the high cost of equipments and advanced programming skills required. This paper described the collaboration between design computing courses and architecture design studios that have been taught at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2004 and 2005. These courses explored several practical methods to integrate Low Cost Virtual Reality Aided Design (LC-VRAD) in the architectural design process. As a summary of the collaboration, this paper refers to three main aspects: (1) How to use game engine to design an affordable VR system in the ordinary studio environment. (2) How to integrate VR, into the design process, not only as a visualization tool, but also as a design instrument. (3) How to evaluate different methods of representing architectural models based on the efficiency of workflow, rendering quality and users' feedback. Support by the Game and Interactive Design Department at SCAD, students in the School of Building Arts implemented two Low Cost VRAD methods in various design phases, starting from site analysis, schematic design, design development to the final presentation. Two popular game engines, Epic Game's Unreal engine and Director MX's Shockwave engine, were introduced to students to visualize their project in real -time. We discussed computer-aided design theories including the application of VR, as well as digital computing and human computer interaction. At the end of each quarter, feedbacks from students and faculties were collected and analyzed. These methods were revised and improved consistently across 2004 and 2005 academic year.
Keywords : Virtual Reality, Real-Time Visualization, Game Engine .

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