Proposed in this paper is a novel approach to virtual prototyping of digital handheld products using augmented reality (AR)-based tangible interaction and functional behavior simulation. For tangible user interaction in an AR environment, we use two types of tangible objects: one is for a product, and the other is for a pointer. The user can create input events by touching specified regions of the product-type tangible object with the pointer-type tangible object. Rapid prototyping and paper-based modeling are adopted to fabricate the AR-based tangible objects which play an important role in improving the accuracy and tangibility of user interaction. For functional behavior simulation, we adopt a state transition methodology to capture the functional behavior of the product into an information model, and build a finite state machine (FSM) to control the transition between states of the product based on the information model. The FSM is combined with the AR-based tangible objects whose operations in the AR environment facilitate the tangible interaction, realistic visualization and functional simulation of a digital handheld product. Based on the proposed approach, a prototyping system has been developed and applied for the design evaluation of various digital handheld products with encouraging feedback from users.
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