Conducting knowledge capture and embedding it into a products’ through lifecycle remains a key issue in engineering industries; particularly with regard to rationale associated knowledge emanating during formal design reviews. Manual, and often interruptive, methods with associated costly overheads, exacerbate the already time consuming process. As well as these disadvantages, manual methods can potentially capture the wrong data due to human error or not fully-capturing all the pertinent information and associated relationships. Consequently, industries are seeking automated engineering knowledge capture and rationale that adds value to product and processes, potentially reaping the benefits of time and cost. Previous work by the authors proved how user-logging in virtual environments aid unobtrusive capture of engineering knowledge and rationale in design tasks.

This paper advances the work further through a Virtual Aided Design Engineering Review (VADER) system developed to automatically and unobtrusively capture both multimodal human-computer and human-human interactivity during design reviews via the synchronous time-phased logging of software interactions, product models, audio, video and input devices. By processing the captured data review reports and records can be automatically generated as well as allowing fast knowledge retrieval. The backbone of VADER is a multimodal device and data fusion architecture to capture and synchronise structured and unstructured data in realtime. Visualisation is through a 3D virtual environment. In addition to allowing engineers to visualise and annotate 3D design models, the system provides a timeline interface to search and visualise the captured decisions from a design review.

The VADER system has been put through its initial industrial trial and reported herein. Objective and subjective analysis indicate the VADER system is intuitive to use and can lead to savings in both time and cost with regard to project reviews.

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