Improving participatory prototyping using mixed reality

  • Lee D A Kent

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Prototyping is a critical and ubiquitous activity that occurs throughout the design process, and the generated prototypes have multivariate purpose and value. Prototypes are typically either virtual or physical manifestations, but the emerging field of mixed reality provides the capability to couple the virtual and physical domains, reducing domain transition costs.

Mixed reality technologies are rapidly maturing, with many examples appearing in industry, but their value to design is still not well understood or articulated. Current state of the art does not present how to identify when a mixed domain approach may be suitable, or how best to realise and maximise value.

Prototypes are identified as having particular significant value as artefacts for communication, both within design teams, and with internal and external stakeholders. Should stakeholders be afforded tools that enable independent exploration of a design space, more rich solutions can be posed.

This thesis looks at the value of mixed reality prototypes and prototyping tools in the context of participatory prototyping, considering if and how mixed reality prototypes could enable a wider range of stakeholders to contribute to a design, leading to better outcomes.

By first looking at what advantages mixed reality prototypes contribute to a design process, the found benefits are leveraged to identify three use cases for deeper investigation. These three use cases span a range of industries and applications, looking to provide a breadth of capability and understanding. The findings from these use case studies are appraised individually and collectively, leading to a generalised set of considerations that will ensure the value of the mixed reality facilitated participatory prototyping tool is maximised.

The work presented in this thesis represents a step forward in the clarity of value for mixed reality to a design process, both for participatory prototyping and design more generally. Future work would look to validate, apply, and build on the recommendations to a wider range of use cases embedded in industrial and civic projects.
Date of Award6 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorChris M Snider (Supervisor) & Ben J Hicks (Supervisor)

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