Nearly every year, uncontrolled rushing of crowds fleeing a burning building or a riot scene led to people being trampled and even killed.
Now, thanks to a computer simulation developed by Paul M. Torrens of Arizona State University, planners will be able to drop thousands of virtual people to create a virtual mob for a particular scenario:
The specific scenarios Torrens creates could show firefighters how to save the most people, tell architects where to place exits or barriers in stadiums, and guide police forces in corralling unruly mobs.
While most traditional crowd simulations treat individuals as purely physical, with no social or emotional reactions, Torrens's model turns each individual into an "avatar" with an artificial mind. Avatars can plan their own route, adjust their path on the fly, and even respond to the body language of fellow cybercitizens who may be jostling them.