Interaction in an immersive virtual Beijing courtyard house

Chen, Qian
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Courtyard housing had been a standard dwelling type in China for more than 3000 years, which integrated tightly with local customs, aesthetics, philosophy, and natural conditions. As the representative of Chinese courtyard housing, Beijing's style has its unique features including structure, plan layout, and urban form. How to present these features effectively is of great importance to understand Beijing courtyard housing. The current major visualization methods in architecture include physical model, digital imaging, and hand drawing. All of them have two common limitations--small dimensions and non-interaction. As an alternative, VR owns two advantages--immersion and interactivity. In a full-immersive VR environment, such as the C6, users can examine virtual buildings at full-scale and operate models interactively at real-time. Thus, this project attempts to implement an interactive simulation of Beijing courtyard house in C6, and find out if architectural knowledge can be presented through this environment. The methodological steps include VR modeling, interaction planning, and C6 implementation. A four-yard house in Beijing was used as the prototype of VR modeling. By generating the model into six versions with different nodes and textures, it was found that the fewer nodes a model has, the quicker it is in C6. The main interaction mechanism is to demonstrate the main hall's structure interactively through menu selection. The sequence to show the structure is based on its constructional process. Each menu item uses the name of structural components, and by clicking a menu item, the corresponding constructional step is shown in C6. There were five viewers invited to see the simulation and comment on the functionality of full-immersion and interactivity in this product. Overall, the results are positive that the full-immersive and interactive VR environment is potentially effective to present architectural knowledge. A major suggestion from the viewers is that more details can be added in the simulation, such as characters and furniture. Upon the accomplishment of this project, a method to implement architectural simulations efficiently in C6 could be found. In the future, this study could involve more complex interactions such as virtual inhabitants, as a means to show the Chinese culture vividly.