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Creating A Virtual Co-working Environment

Case Study: Collaborative Visualisation and Design

One aspect of distributed virtual environments is that they can be used to bring coworkers together for productive collaboration, saving money, travel time and CO2 emissions. This project allowed teams of industrial designers and architects to co-work in virtual environments instead of travelling to the same location.


To bring together designers and planners into a distributed virtual environment supported by broadband networks


A number of architectural and industrial designers


€2 million from the European Union


This major project with 17 partners designed and implemented a distributed virtual environment over broadband networks. This enabled designers and planners in different European countries and cities to work together in a shared design space to produce 3D objects, components, buildings, and vehicles. Communication during the design process was facilitated by using audio and video on each collaborator's workstation. Once the design was finalised it could be translated into its constituent parts for manufacture and production processes. These specifications could then be sent in digital form to the manufacturer.

This environment facilitated location-independent working and substantially reduced the travel costs of the collaborators who previously had to relocate to work in the same physical design studio.


Primary application areas of this project were architectural and industrial design. An example of the former was the city of Eindhoven's West Corridor plan, which included designing a new train station, creating a large green area in the city centre, planning a route for the new public transportation system, and designing a tunnel for the highway. In addition, some of the existing buildings needed restoration. The functional proposal included the following aspects:

  • Restoring some of the existing industrial buildings
  • Converting an old heating plant into a museum
  • Build a shopping center along the railway, including offices and commercial areas
  • Build houses and residential dwellings in the spaces available
  • Give priority to underground parking, parks and green areas, and houses

Architects, designers and city planners in different physical locations were able to work together in the distributed virtual environment and discuss the design from different ground and aerial viewpoints. They could also participate in a joint virtual walkthrough of the 3D scenarios of the proposed designs to find out what it felt like to be a user of the proposed spaces. This latter aspect is very difficult to do with scale models of the construction because it is not usually possible to view from the inside of the structure.