Exceptionally fast, flexible, and lifelike
uCrowds brings state-of-the-art scientific crowd simulation software to market
After 10 years of fundamental research and applications in projects, Utrecht University computer science researcher Dr. Roland Geraerts and his partner Eric de Wilde are proud to introduce their new start-up uCrowds. With the unique uCrowds software, organisations can simulate the movements of large masses of people under a variety of circumstances. The software has already been utilised by Schiphol Airport and during the start of the Tour de France in Utrecht. Game developers are also expected to be interested in the software, as it is exceptionally fast and flexible, and can simulate truly ‘lifelike’ crowd movements. Utrecht University and uCrowds will sign the license agreement on 13 April to mark the official start of the company.
“The speed of the simulations, the accuracy, and the possibility of making dynamic adjustments make it unique among this type of software”, Geraerts explains. “But our strong point is, and will always be, the combination with scientific research. The software is not only state-of-the-art today, but it will also continue to develop over time.”
The uCrowds software can simulate the movements of 65,000 pedestrians or game characters on a PC in real time. The characters can also react to changes in the environment, such as a blocked walking route, in real time as well. These fast simulations make it possible to study a large number of different scenarios, such as the effect of installing or moving crowd control barriers, toilets, or grandstands during an event.
Digital copy of an entire city
Geraerts and De Wilde envision a future in which the uCrowds software will make it possible to create a digital copy of the entire city, including pedestrians and traffic. This in turn will enable users to see the effects of changes to the city, and how they interrelate. In collaboration with uCrowds and the consulting and engineering firm Movares, the City of Utrecht is initiating a project with exactly that purpose in mind. Geraerts hopes to eventually make the simulations even more ‘transparent’, by means of a holographic projection of the city on a table. “Then, you can literally gather around the table with all of the stakeholders, interact with the information, and see what happens in 3D.”
Smarter than game-software
The software is also interesting for game developers, because even the most advanced computer games feature less intelligent simulations than that offered by uCrowds. A team of computer science students at Utrecht University has recently used the uCrowds software to develop a plug-in to simulate crowds of people in the popular game development platform Unity3D.
10 years of scientific research
The crowd simulation software is based on 10 years of fundamental scientific research, which Geraerts credits especially to the PhD research of his candidates Wouter van Toll and Arne Hillebrand. “The great thing is that along with the start of uCrowds, we will be publishing a 34-page article describing the fundamental foundations of the research.”
More realistic results
One of the results of the scientific research was the creation of an intelligent calculating structure, which zooms in to greater levels of detail in a step-by-step manner. This makes it possible to calculate only the local effect of each of the changes to the environment. As a result, the users can quickly simulate large environments in 3D. The simulations are also more realistic, because it uses walking surfaces instead of walking lines. With walking lines, it is difficult to prevent collisions, and social behaviour, such as groups of people who walk together, cannot be simulated effectively. Surfaces, however, lend themselves well to these types of calculations.
The start-up event, which will include the signatures of the collaboration- and licensing agreements, will be held on 13 April, from 15:00 to 16:00 at UtrechtInc, Padualaan 8, Utrecht Science Park.
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