The study presented demonstrated an experiment to verify the perception of students in the initial cycle of a course of undergraduate architecture and urbanism on the use of VR as a didactic contribution, incorporated in the visualization of design alternatives of the environment Built. It was found that the use of the strategy of visualization of spaces in VR contributes to an improvement in the understanding of proposals and solutions design, with interaction between the participants and the projected environment, assisting in the decision making.
The work pointed out the way technologies that use virtual reality can offer a faster and more intuitive interaction between the designer and the CAD program, with a simple approach to the creation and evaluation of proposed concepts and tectonics. However, formal CAD systems are not fully oriented to support the project design process due in its vast majority to the traditional interaction between human and computer, usually using its peripherals (mouse, keyboard) and a two-dimensional screen for interaction with these softwares. This may lead to loss of information and visualization through the conversion of 2D into 3D elements necessary for the decision interpretation and evaluation (Ye et al. 2006).
Unlike 2D technologies, which seek to display depth and perspective on flat screens in two dimensions, stereoscopic visualization provides the user with an immersive 3D visual perception of spatiality. Stereoscopic display is also a 3D visual channel output device. This then allows stereoscopic viewing to be much easier to interpret than 2D images typically displayed on computer monitors.
VR has already been applied in the field and studied in various related disciplines such as real estate, interior design and urban planning, enabling new possibilities to exploratory studies and use of the tool aiming to complement several new forms of architecture creation and production that emerge with the digital age.
VR’s potential is to allow for a natural interaction with virtual models and to increase computer support and real-time changes throughout the project process. On the other hand, the use of virtual models impacts positively on the mental formation of three-dimensional images, increasing the perception of spatial compositions and reducing mental workload, since the three-dimensional representation facilitates the understanding and needs less effort for the user to interpret.
When VR technology is applied on built environment disciplines of the when used in vocational training or in the project process, offers a new look to understand different stages of a constructive process, allowing the verification and comparison between different scenarios and proposals before the final definition. To fulfil this premise, it is important to check the ability to visualize several models to demonstrate different layers (structure, installations, furniture, etc.), textures and geographical positions.
Although VR presents many advantages in the development of consumer goods, those who often applies the technology should be aware of some disadvantages. These are not strictly associated with modeling or situation analysis, but intrinsically linked to expectations associated with the human-computer interaction inherent in VR-based projects.
One of the main problems encountered in the experiences was the 3D model display and their manipulation on mobile devices so that different interactions occur freely using open source platforms. In the case of the Kubity® application the model view in free mode is restricted to 10 min per loaded model. It is verified that a greater adherence to VR as a didactic tool as a possibility depends mainly on the technology accessibility and the programs’ and applications’ ease of use and interface, which go against the greater perception and usability by the students.
In this sense, the use of VR as a tool for teaching and developing analytical skills and design also presents some limitations. One of the considerations to be made when deciding to use the tool is the immersion level offered by the chosen virtual reality system, being important to select a system that allows an appropriate level of immersion to the didactic and expected task (Rebelo et al. 2011).
The results are based on the hypothesis that representation tools have a convergence in the cognition process of and space perception and, consequently, are important tools during the design and space representation phases, both in the process as in the result necessary in the context of contemporary design.
In addition to empirical activities and bibliographic study, it is concluded that emerging technologies such as VR, even with some still existing gaps, can facilitate the development of senses beyond the visual aspects of a new generation of CAD tools that introduce collaboration and cognition concepts more integrated to the space production processes.