Milestone 2022 - Time to look back
We are proud to reveal that uCrowds is one of the first software companies that genuinely drive large digital twin applications with its cutting-edge crowd simulation technology. The extensive research and ongoing performance improvements have resulted in a simulation engine that evolved to handle over one million pedestrians in real-time in country-scale environments.
The initial (local) real-time performance of the engine increased from 15K to 250K in Unity and Unreal Engine. With this growth, we unlocked handling dynamic changes (such as inserting/ deleting obstacles), supporting multi-layered environments, and animating and visualizing the crowd.
To make a simulation, we take as input a virtual environment. A specific selected part is walkable by the pedestrians, and the remainder is covered by obstacles. Efficient simulations require an acceleration structure (navigation mesh) that represents the walkable space. The mesh consists of a graph representing all possible global routes and an exact decomposition of the walkable areas into non-overlapping cells. When the environment changes, this mesh is updated, and the agents' global routes and motions are adjusted instantly.
In short, the possibility to interact with the environment by placing obstacles and altering the characteristics of the crowd without stopping the simulation or waiting for computing time translates to increased efficiency and precision for our crowd expert users and no stalls in interactive virtual worlds.
Apart from the dynamic nature of the simulation, what sets us apart is that we put usability at the heart of the engine so that experts and end-users have an intuitive interaction and learning curve.
Common applications for our engine include digital twin cities and multi-layered environments of hundreds of square kilometers that require human interactivity. For example, we’ve collaborated with CAE and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to realize and simulate digital twin cities. The engine offers many features for creating realistic simulations, including social groups, density-based re-planning, differently sized pedestrians using one navigation mesh, action areas, pedestrian profiles, parameter distributions, and more. Our cloud-based solutions can handle over one million pedestrians in real-time, allowing for city- and even country-scale simulations.
Impact and benefit
Our goal was to create a simulation tool to help understand the impact of various variables that are costly and time-consuming to recreate in real life. Digital Twins can for instance be used to plan the layout of the public space, the event site, the permit application and assessment, and for powering training scenarios. The uCrowds engine can be used to get insights into the risk when dealing with crowds in events, transportation, and other infrastructures.
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