This paper describes a previously unreported application of virtual environments — the prediction of product cosmetic quality. Successful prediction of cosmetic quality without the production of a physical prototype requires the integration of a number of ‘software’ models. The models include an assembly model representing the manner in which the product is put together; an environment model providing a real world graphical context for the product; a behaviour model representing how the product moves and deforms under use conditions; a tolerance model representing the allowable variation in the product due to manufacturing and assembly variation; and an interaction model enabling the user to interact with the system. This paper presents interim results of a research project that has combined these models and implemented them within an automotive design and manufacturing process during the development of a new automobile. The paper contains the results of initial user evaluation and issues for future research.

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