This week at a graphics conference I saw a nice little talk about crowd simulation. As I watched the presentation, it occurred to me that unless one does exhaustive measurements of real crowds, this is one of those situations where “success” just means that things look right: If people look at your simulation and believe they are seeing real crowd behavior, then you’re good.

So I decided to try my hand at crowd simulation, to figure out the simplest approach that would visually appear to act like actual crowds. It was surprisingly simple to do — within half an hour I had something reasonable, and then after another hour or so of tweaking, I was quite happy with the final result.

Taking my cue from the paper presentation I’d seen, my “test” was four different crowds of people trying to swap places — a crowd to the East swaps places with one to the West, while at the same time a crowd to the North swaps places with one the South.

As you may imagine, things can get chaotic. The simulation needs to convey a sense that people are streaming past each other intelligently, without bumping into one another.

For a first try I think I did pretty well. You can see the result by clicking on the below image.

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