In the research reported in this paper, we investigated if a holographic display based truly 3D virtual design environment can effectively support 3D conceptual design. In this investigation, we applied heuristic evaluation method (Nielsen and Mack, 1994), but with some differences. We first conducted a literature study and compiled a comprehensive list of conceptual design tasks. We then asked selected experts to evaluate the experimental system and to indicate which conceptual design tasks can be supported. The experimental 3D design support environment consisted of a holographic display as a primary visualization device. In this experimental system, visual representation of information is presented aerially by using the holographic display, and viewers can interact with the displayed images by using the traditional input devices such as mouse and keyboard. The study established that this system can support only a handful of conceptual design tasks, in particular those requiring passive visualization such as review of the ergonomics of the product and aesthetics review. Other conceptual design tasks can be supported either partially or are not supported at all. This can be attributed in part to the shortcomings of the display, which include, for instance, poor resolution, inability of viewers to experience stereoscopic view all around the virtual object, lack of mechanism for enabling direct interaction between the viewer and the displayed virtual object, and lack of proper input mechanisms and user interfaces.

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