Virtual Reality, A Design Methodology

Dan Neubauer 1/ Pete Evans 2/ Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness 3/ Betsy Barnhart 4
Iowa State University Department of Industrial Design (1234)

. INTRODUCTION                                       

Empathy is at the core of human centered design and design thinking. Being able to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, truly immersing into the subject matter, discovering the actual issues to be solved is crucial to successful problem finding and problem solving. Educators aim to provide an educational environment that fosters empathy for diverse environments including environments where access to people and contexts is restricted, limited, or too distant. The research team proposes emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), as a supportive tool for creating empathy for the users and environments people are designing for.

The goal is to empower design students with new design methodologies driven by VR to best identify and frame problems to be solved, understand the context and situation, and find the right design solutions in a highly technological and evermore complex world.

Therefore, Virtual Reality as a Design Research Methodology was implemented in a workshop framework to provide the opportunity for a diverse group of students in Industrial Design to come together and test the novel role of virtual reality in the creation of empathy in the front end of the design process. The objective was to give students an opportunity to experience virtual reality as a design research method in order to improve both the level of empathy developed by the designer for the end user, and test different types of media to be used for virtual reality experiences. Virtual reality experiences might have the potential to generate research results and designs that are better honed to end user’s needs, and of more reliable quality. The findings of the workshop have potentially wide­ ranging implications for design research in particular and design education in general.

Designers are continuously looking for new methodologies to develop a stronger sense of empathy with ( more)