One of the most significant challenge of Virtual Reality (VR) in industry is to support the interaction with product models while enhancing the collaborative product development (CPD) by improving team working in the extended enterprise. The process success highly depends on how information flows and which representational means and supporting environments are adopted. This paper explores the impact of VR applications on collaboration focusing on co-design requirements, participants behavior and exploited interaction modalities. A benchmarking method is defined to select the proper co-design virtual environment for specific forms of collaboration carried out in different time-space domains. It adopts protocol analysis techniques to objectify both practical and cognitive human factors and it applies Quality Functional Deployment (QFD) matrices to correlate collaboration requirements and tools functionalities. Experimental tests have been carried out on synchronous and remote co-design activities, where VR tools have been poorly exploited. Achieved results highlight main limitations and strengths of the analysed technologies, addressing future developments in collaborative virtual environments.

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