An agent approach to supporting collaborative design in 3D virtual worlds
3D virtual worlds facilitate a level of communication and collaboration not readily available in conventional CAD systems. The integration of virtual worlds and CAD systems using a common data model can make a significant impact on synchronous collaboration and real-time multiuser multidisciplinary modification of building data. By using agents, the integration of 3D virtual worlds and CAD systems can go beyond that of passive data transfer. With sensors and effectors, each agent can interact with its environment by responding to changes in the CAD system or 3D virtual world, which can take the form of an update to the geometry or as a recommendation to change nongeometric information or to propagate changes to other parts of the design. The reasoning process for each agent can vary from a reflexive behaviour, in which the agent responds directly to the sensor data to a reflective behaviour in which the agents reasons about its goals and alternatives before making a change to the environment. We demonstrate this approach using ArchiCAD and Active Worlds as the CAD system and the virtual world platform. An EDM database is used as the central repository for storing the representation of the relevant data model. A multiagent system is developed to connect the virtual world to this database to allow active data sharing. This agent approach can be extended to the integration of other applications and data models.