Virtual Reality Lab College of Design

Project Portfolio

Immersive Virtual Reality (VR) is an extremely effective means for non-designers to understand and interact with designed environments. Some aspects of VR are technical and require a high level of expertise, however the user experience is highly accessible and completely immersive. No training or preparation is needed for users to experience the VR space in ways that are very close to reality; users immediately grasp scale, circulation, view lines and understand how others occupy the space.

VRDL focuses on two interdependant areas of research and development - emerging technologies and emerging applications in design practice. Both areas strive to tap the potential of VR to improve design processes, facilitate user expertise and explore other ways to leverage VR. Currently the VRDL Team is exploring the application of VR for healthcare design through partnerships with architecture firms and major healthcare providers and is constantly expanding the technological capabilities to better support the applications in design disciplines.

William Adams, Facilitating Accurate Spatial Perception Using Virtual Reality

Done in partnership with Mortenson, Inc.Virtual Reality Design Lab


Last semester, I pursued research which was focused on developing an experimental method to evaluate the ability of methods of viewing 3D models to facilitate accurate spatial cognition. I designed and ran an experiment which involved 40 subjects, all of whom were graduate students in the department of architecture. This research is especially valuable now that the VRDL has begun producing its own head mounted displays, as it may be a way to test changes made to the HMD prototypes and virtual environment.

Significant advances in technology driving head mounted displays (HDM’s) have greatly increased the quality of immersive virtual environments (IVE’s) while drastically lowering the cost to achieve them. Presently, the established experiments employed to quantify the ability of HMD facilitated IVEs to create an accurate perception of scale and spatial relationships are limited, by and large, to measuring egocentric distance perception. This paper proposes a new experiment which was employed to test the ability of three mediums of representation to facilitate the memorization of the spatial characteristics of a 3D virtual environment respective to the human body. Those mediums are (1) a conventional 2D screen, (2) a fully immersive virtual environment viewed through a head mounted display, where navigation is accomplished via hand controls, and (3) a fully immersive virtual environment, viewed through a head mounted display, where navigation is accomplished via one-to-one physical movement. Additionally, a real environment identical to the virtual environment is tested. The experiment was conducted by asking participants to view a simple 3D model (several rectangular solids arranged on a plane) through one of the three mediums of virtual representation, or in a real environment. After viewing the 3D model, participants were asked to recreate the arrangement of the solids in a real environment. Though the proposed experiment tests various immersive environments against each other, the experiment may prove most valuable in measuring iterative changes made to a single HMD or the IVE which it creates.


Jenna Johansson, VR Report, 2012

Done in partnership with HGA Virtual Reality Design Lab


Amy Douma and Katy Dale, ‘Seeing’ the design in 3-D, 2013

Done in partnership with HGA Virtual Reality Design Lab


UMN School of Architecture
Rapson Hall
89 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455