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Simulation & Visualization

VR as a tool in product and service development

Virtual Reality (VR) is a concept that most people are familiar with, but did you know that it can be used in product and service development? A clear trend and opportunity in product development today is making use of virtual environments. Access to powerful processors, large amounts of data and innovative visualization solutions makes it possible to supplement physical prototypes with virtual ones. This brings numerous advantages, such as shortening development cycles, involving multiple people in the development process, and providing greater precision in decision support. 

ESSIQ currently works with numerous projects where, together with clients, we develop platforms for virtual development, simulation and visualization. We focus on development of technology and methods, and offer expertise from early-stage concept to optimization and verification in the end stages of the process. Within the service area of Simulation and Visualization, we help our customers to streamline and modernize their product development using the latest technology, which is constantly being developed and refined.

Simulation & Visualization > Case

Differences in user experience comparing virtual reality and screen-based interactions

Martin and Rasmus are two students who completed their master’s theses with us at ESSIQ. They studied for master’s degrees in interaction at Chalmers University of Technology, where Martin previously earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Design (TD), and Rasmus in IT. They worked primarily with design, user experiences, interaction and interface in their studies, leading to master’s degrees, in which they studied the differences in user experiences when interacting in VR compared with screen-based systems.

Aim and purpose
VR is a technology that is becoming increasingly popular, but the development of modern VR systems is relatively new – the latest tech is no more than five to seven years old. Because VR is still new, there are few studies and examples of products that indicate where or whether it’s worth investing in VR technology for an individual company. There is a lack of knowledge on how VR impacts user experiences compared to screen-based systems – knowledge that would be good to be able to base decisions and investments on, when companies are deciding the systems in which to develop new products. This is particularly interesting for industries that today attempt to visualize reality using digital methods. One such industry is prefabricated homes, where the customer has the option of personal design choices and visualizing these using digital tools before the house is built. The aim of the master’s thesis work was to therefore investigate the differences in user experiences when comparing a VR system and a screen-based system, both allowing the user to make design choices in a household environment.

As there wasn’t a suitable VR system to compare with, Martin and Rasmus designed their own system as part of the project process. They found an additional issue, in that VR is relatively new. There are not many accepted guidelines to follow when designing a VR system to be extremely user-friendly and provide a good user experience. Therefore, one of the project’s objectives was to create such guidelines.

The process largely consisted of designing a VR system, then implementing and testing it. Halfway through the project, a test was carried out to investigate the user-friendliness, both to improve the system and also to be able to create guidelines as a result. The final test consisted of comparing the VR system with as similar a screen-based interface as possible. Analysis of the data from both the tests gave them seven guidelines for VR design and six system dimensions within which VR differs from screen-based systems.

Implementation
The majority of the work was carried out at ESSIQ Väst, where Martin and Rasmus developed a VR prototype, with the help of Unreal Engine 4. Together with us, they carried out both large and small tests to be able to iterate on the VR system multiple times during the work. Besides the design and implementation of the functionality in the VR system, the work also consisted of planning tests, collecting data and analyzing it. Contact with independent companies in the housing industry generated valuable information on the process of buying a house. They were also able to get permission to use a computer model of a house in the developed VR system.

Results
Analysis of the data from both the tests carried out found seven guidelines for VR design and six system dimensions within which VR differs from screen-based systems. Even if the VR system is only viewed as a prototype, the concept has potential as a commercial product, and its design is a good example of what such a product might look like.

Simulation & Visualization > Profile

Joakim Brodd

Joakim Brodd is an Automotive Consultant at ESSIQ and works in Simulation and Visualization. Joakim is a versatile person with a huge interest in technology. He was born in Switzerland, grew up just outside Gothenburg, lived in Tranås for several years, and studied in the USA and Germany. Joakim is currently working on a project at Geely Design in Gothenburg, where his role is Product Design Quality Specialist.

It was never obvious that Joakim would start his career in technology – he holds both a Master of Science in Product Development from Chalmers University of Technology and a Bachelor of Economics from the School of Business, Economics and Law in Gothenburg. But his interest in technology increasingly began to take over, and during his studies, Joakim took an exchange internship in Germany to focus on automotive development, technical design and innovation at the University of Stuttgart. Today, Joakim describes himself as “tragically interested in tech,” and that it is specifically cars that have long been close to his heart.

The interest in cars has also shaped Joakim’s working life, and has led to great opportunities to develop the cars of the future. In his previous contract in Perceived Quality at China Euro Vehicle Technology (CEVT), Joakim held customer clinics at a test facility in England, and carried out a number of Product Reviews in the various car factories in China. The opportunity to work in an international environment is something that Joakim appreciates:

“Through ESSIQ I’ve had the chance to be involved in contracts as they develop, and work in an international environment. It’s incredibly interesting to work with China, who are today driving forward technical innovation and automotive development,” says Joakim.

Joakim came to ESSIQ in 2016 and describes the corporate culture as social, positive and innovative. “Feeling part of the community is key,” emphasizes Joakim, “because as a consultant, you spend the majority of your time with the client.” He has learned a lot during his career at ESSIQ: working on large, complex projects, compiling key information and giving presentations at the highest level. ESSIQ’s training program has also allowed him to become a certified project manager, which is a skill he wants to develop more in future. To the future talent in the technology industry, he wants to give the following tips:

“The generations of consultants, both today and tomorrow, will place greater demands on their employer: digital expertise and the latest tech is something you expect. It’s also something that our generation is really skilled at. Don’t be afraid to look after number one and share your knowledge! Make contacts, be active in meetings and join in with social activities.”

In his down time, apart from his interest in technology, Joakim is keen on exercise and music. He is always reading about the latest news in the automotive industry, but obviously spends most of his time with his wife and dog, who he lives with in central Gothenburg. Joakim is analytical and curious, two qualities that push him forward, both as a person and as a professional:

“I like basing discussions and decisions on facts. In addition, I’ve got a strong drive and powerful curiosity that push me on. I always want to continue learning!