The fourth generation of CAD/E systems appears in the form of collaborative virtual design environments (CVDEs). These distributed design support systems are based on a still developing new paradigm. Consequently, the standard architecture, functionality, and implementation of CVDEs are not fully elaborated yet. It is believed that six fundamental components are needed for a fully featured implementation: i. enhanced CAD/E kernel functionality, ii. multi-site imagining and advanced interaction, iii. high-speed communication and multi-channel networking, iv. collaboration support and virtual presence, v. knowledge asset management, and vi. interface to virtual enterprises. This paper investigates the supporting technologies with the aim to explore what is available, satisfactory, compatible, and experienced. The authors found that remarkable results have been achieved in terms of the supporting technologies, but for some CVDEs functions the technologies are not available so far. Currently the largest problem is to integrate the highly heterogeneous technologies into one coherent system. This is due partly to the inherent complexity of the problem, and partly to the uneven maturity of the technologies. It can be predicted without any hazard that dramatic changes will be witnessed soon in this front of research and development.

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