This paper presents a new approach to using virtual reality (VR) to design spherical mechanisms. VR provides a three dimensional design space where a designer can input design positions using a combination of hand gestures and motions and view the resultant mechanism in stereo using natural head movement to change the viewpoint. Because of the three dimensional nature of the design and verification of spherical mechanisms, VR is examined as a new design interface in this research. In addition to providing a VR environment for design, the research presented in this paper has focused on developing a “design in context” approach to spherical mechanism design. Previous design methods have involved placing coordinate frames along the surface of a constraint sphere. The new “design in context” approach allows a designer to freely place geometric models of movable objects inside an environment consisting of fixed objects. The fixed objects could either act as a base for a mechanism or be potential sources of interference with the motion of the mechanism. This approach allows a designer to perform kinematic synthesis of a mechanism while giving consideration to the interaction of that mechanism with its application environment.

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