Prototyping and evaluation are imperative phases of the present product design and development process. Although digital modeling and analysis methods are widely employed at various product development stages, still, building a physical prototype makes the present typical process expensive and time consuming. Therefore, it is necessary to implement new technologies, such as virtual prototyping, which can enable industry to have a rapid and more controlled decision making process. Virtual prototyping has come a long way in recent years, where current environments enable stereoscopic visuals, surround sound and ample interaction with the generated models. It is also important to evaluate how representative the developed virtual prototype is when compared to the real-world counterpart and the sense of presence reported by users of the virtual prototype. This paper describes the systematic procedure to develop a virtual prototype of Gazal-1 (i.e., the first car prototype designed by Saudi engineers) in a semi-immersive virtual environment. The steps to develop a virtual prototype from CAD (computer-aided design) models are explained in detail. Various issues involved in the different phases for the development of the virtual prototype are also discussed comprehensively. The paper further describes the results of the subjective assessment of a developed virtual prototype of a Saudi Arabian-designed automobile. User’s feedback is recorded using a presence questionnaire. Based on the user-based study, it is revealed that the virtual prototype is representative of the real Saudi Arabian car and offers a flexible environment to analyze design features when compared against its physical prototype. The capabilities of the virtual environment are validated with the application of the car prototype. Finally, vital requirements and directions for future research are also presented.
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