This paper presents a new approach to using virtual reality (VR) to design spherical mechanisms. VR provides a three-dimensional (3-D) 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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