Using Virtual Reality for Participatory Design and Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


In this thesis, the usability of Virtual Reality (VR) has been investigated and developed within two applications: participatory design of workplaces and brain injury rehabilitation.

In the first application, VR is used in combination with full scale modelling, drama and democratic meetings in an Envisionment Workshop. This workshop has been developed and tested through several real workplace interventions to allow people from a workplace to design their own work environment in participation with others such as ergonomists, builders and architects. The Envisionment Workshop is both a collection of tools and protocols of usage to support the design process by providing a valid context and common language between the participants.

Of particular interest was the role of VR within the Envisionment Workshop. Prototypes and protocols of usage were designed and evaluated in both real and experimental situations using a case study methodology to ensure high ecological validity.

It was found that a tool for group design using low-cost VR technology can, in principle, be very useful, though tends to suffer from limitations in the interface. Both this and more advanced immersive VR were, however, found to be valuable complements to the workshop for evaluating an existing workplace, for idea creation and for consolidating ideas generated during other envisionment sessions. Recommendations are made to participatory design practitioners for developing their own VR based tools and usage protocols for similar design tasks in a similar context using VR technology.

In the second application, it was postulated that VR could be a useful complement to assessment, training and as a daily living aid for people who have suffered a brain injury. The reactions to this idea were first sought from occupational therapists who work with people with a brain injury. A prototype tool was developed to mirror a standard assessment procedure for brain function difficulties (brewing coffee). The occupational therapists were given the chance to use the prototype and discuss whether they thought the idea sound.

Reactions were positive, so the project continued by investigating exactly what effect the decisions made in the design of the prototype had on its usability. This prototype utilized automatic viewpoint navigation and all interactions were through single mouse clicks. In particular, we were interested in how the rather unique group of users – people with brain injury – would be able to use the tool. The results indicated a high degree of usability, in particular that automatic navigation is easy to understand but can require augmentation by a ‘step-back’ button; and that single-clicks work well for object activation but can lead to some confusion when moving objects and in object-object interplay.

The work in this thesis shows that VR applications can be made to be both useful and usable if the same principles of design, development and testing are applied as for creating other usable computerised tools and human-computer interfaces. In particular, the interface mustn’t hinder the users, the tasks for the tool must be carefully chosen and the role of the tool as a complement to other tools established.


  • Roy Davies
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


  • pollution control, Environmental technology, Data- och systemvetenskap, computer technology, Systems engineering, Case Studies, Brain Injury Rehabilitation, Participatory Design, Virtual Reality, Usability, Applications, Miljöteknik, kontroll av utsläpp, Physical medicine, kinesitherapy, revalidation, rehabilitation, Rehabilitering (medicinsk och social)
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date2000 Oct 13
  • Division of Ergonomics, Department of Design Sciences, Lund University
Print ISBNs91-7874-090-8
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2000-10-13 Time: 10:15 Place: Ole Römers väg 1, Mechanical Technology Building, Lecture Theatre M:B External reviewer(s) Name: Cobb, Susan Title: Dr Affiliation: University of Nottingham, England. ---