In the summer of 2015, hundreds of thousands of people visited Utrecht to catch a glimpse of the start of the Tour de France. Researcher Roland Geraerts (Computer Science) and his team worked together with Movares to prepare the planning of the route. Using Geraerts’ crowd simulation engine, it was possible to create a 3D simulation of the route, and to let virtual visitors loose inside it to identify potential bottlenecks and to correct them in time for the event.
The success of the Grand Départ paved the way for new projects using the crowd simulation software. At the request of the City of Amsterdam, Geraerts and Movares worked on simulations for three metro stations along the future North-South line. The software makes it possible to simulate how fast the stations can be evacuated, as well as the effect that people carrying bicycles has on evacuation times. The City of Amsterdam will use the results of these simulations to decide whether or not to allow bicycles in the metro during rush hour.
At the moment, the crowd simulation engine is taking steps towards being released to the market with help from an STW grant. The simulation is expected to be ready for commercial release by early 2017, and will enter the market via the startup uCrowds. The partnership between Geraerts and Movares will be extended by means of a license agreement signed by the parties on 17 November. The partnership agreement started with the Grand Départ last year, and will continue through the North-South line project and beyond.
The partnership is a good fit, according to Geraerts. “At the university, we work on the algorithms, the crowd simulation engine behind the software. Movares is responsible for the user interface and consultancy. They make it possible to use our algorithms in specific simulations, by creating the maps of the area to read into the software.” Frank Verkoijen from Movares emphasises the importance of crowd simulation: “Society as a whole demands increasingly higher standards for safety, experience and well-being. There is a growing need for good crowd simulations. Through the partnership with Utrecht University, we are now better able to meet that need.”
Not just safety
The parties also have plans to apply the crowd simulation engine to a zoo. “It’s no fun to have to shuffle through a zoo behind a large crowd”, Geraerts explains. “So we’re looking at renovations plans in advance to see if we can find a better way for people to walk through the zoo. It’ not just about safety; it’s also about experience.”