Many important decisions in the design process are made fairly early on, after designers have presented initial concepts. In many domains, these concepts are already realized as 3D digital models. Then, in a meeting, the stakeholders for the project get together and evaluate these potential solutions. Frequently, the participants in this meeting want to interactively modify the proposed 3D designs to explore the design space better. Today's systems and tools do not support this, as computer systems typically support only a single user and computer-aided design tools require significant training.
This paper presents the design of a new system to facilitate a collaborative 3D design process. First, we discuss a set of guidelines which have been introduced by others and that are relevant to collaborative 3D design systems. Then, we introduce the new system, which consists of two main parts. The first part is an easy-to-use conceptual 3D design tool that can be used productively even by naive users. The tool provides novel interaction techniques that support important properties of conceptual design. The user interface is non-obtrusive, easy-to-learn, and supports rapid creation and modification of 3D models. The second part is a novel infrastructure for collaborative work, which offers an interactive table and several large interactive displays in a semi-immersive setup. It is designed to support multiple users working together. This infrastructure also includes novel pointing devices that work both as a stylus and a remote pointing device. The combination of the (modified) design tool with the collaborative infrastructure forms a new platform for collaborative virtual 3D design. Then, we present an evaluation of the system against the guidelines for collaborative 3D design. Finally, we present results of a preliminary user study, which asked naive users to collaborate in a 3D design task on the new system.