Effects of Embodied and Self-reflected Virtual Reality on Engineering Students’ Design Cognition about Nature

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Trump, Josh; Shealy, Tripp
Series: ICED
Institution: Virginia Tech
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 1575-1584
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.158


The study presented in this paper investigated the impact of embodied and self-reflected virtual reality (VR) experiences on engineering design students' cognition and perception of nature-relatedness during the early conceptual design phase. Results showed that students who explored the design environment as a bird (embodied) or human (self) avatar were significantly more likely to explore a larger design space indicated by more semantically unique design concepts compared to students without the VR experience. Network graphs of the syntactic connection of design concepts revealed notable differences among the three groups. The bird avatar group showed more connections to nature-related and social concepts, while more technical concepts were central for the human avatar group, and concepts about money were more central to the control group. Finally, students who embodied the bird avatar had a significantly stronger perception of connection to nature compared to the human avatar and control group, with a small to medium effect size. The results suggest that embodied (as a bird) and self-reflected (as a human) VR experiences can enhance engineering students' design thinking and perception of connection to nature.

Keywords: Sustainability, Virtual reality, Design engineering, Decision making

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