Title page for ETD etd-04182005-121744


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Merrell, Thomas Yates
URN etd-04182005-121744
Title Escape Simulation Suite
Degree Master of Science
Department Electrical and Computer Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kachroo, Pushkin Committee Chair
Abbott, A. Lynn Committee Member
Ravindran, Binoy Committee Member
Singh, Mahendra P. Committee Member
Keywords
  • dynamically linked library (DLL)
  • DirectX
  • Win32
  • networking
  • 3D graphics
  • real-time
  • simulation
Date of Defense 2005-04-15
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Ever since we were children the phrase “In case of an emergency, walk, DON’T run, to the nearest exit” has been drilled into our heads. How to evacuate a large number of people from a given area as quickly and safely as possible has been a question of great importance since the first congregation of man; a question that has yet to be optimally answered. There have been many attempts at finding an answer and many more yet to be made.

In light of recent world events, 9/11 for instance, the need for a better answer is apparent. While finding a solution to this problem is the end objective, the goal of this thesis is to develop an application or tool that will aid in the search of an answer to this problem.

There are several aspects of traditional evacuation plans that make them inherently suboptimal. First among these is that they are static by nature. When a building is designed, there is some care taken in analyzing its floor plan and finding an optimal evacuation route for everyone. These plans are made under several assumptions and with the obvious constant that they cannot be modified during the actual emergency. Yes, it is possible for such a plan to actually end up being the optimal plan during any given evacuation, but the likelihood of this being the case is most definitely less then 100%. There are many reasons for this. The most obvious is this: the situation that the plan is trying to solve is a very dynamic one. People will not be where they should be or in the quantities that the static plan was prepared for. Many of them will probably not know what they should do in an emergency and so most likely will follow any large group of people, like lemmings. Finally, most situations that require the evacuation of a building or area occur because all or part of the building has become, or is becoming, unsafe. It is impossible for a static evacuation plan to take into account the way a fire or poisonous gas is spreading, or the state of the structural stability of the building.

What is needed during a crisis is an artificially intelligent and dynamic evacuation system that is capable of (1) analyzing the state of the building and its occupants, (2) coming up with a plan to get everyone out as fast as possible, and (3) directing all occupants along the best exit routes. Furthermore, the system should be able to modify its plan as the evacuation progresses.

This application is intended to provide researchers in this area the means to quickly and accurately simulate different evacuation theories and ideas. That being the case, it will have powerful graphical capabilities, thus allowing the researchers to easily see the real-time results of their work. It will be able to use diverse modeling techniques in order to handle the many different ways of approaching this problem. It will provide a simple way for equations and mathematical models to be entered which can affect the behavior of most aspects of the world being simulated. This work is in conjunction with, and closely tied to, Dr Pushkin Kachroo’s research on this same topic.

The application is designed so that future developers can quickly add to and modify its design to meet their specifications. It is not the goal of this work to provide an application that directly solves the optimal evacuation problem, or one that inherently simulates everything perfectly. It is the job of the researchers using this application to define the specific physics equations and models for each component of the simulation. This application provides an easy way to add these definitions into the simulation calculations.

In brief, this Escape Simulator is a client server application. All of the graphics and human interaction are handled client side using Win32 and Direct3D. The actual simulation world calculations are handled server side, and both the client and server communicate via DirectPlay. The algorithm being used to model the objects and world by the server will be completely configurable. In fact, everything in the world, including the world physics, will be completely modifiable. Though the researchers will need to write the necessary pluggins that to define the actual models and algorithms used by the agents, objects, and world, ultimately this will give them much more power and flexibility. It will also allow for third parties to develop libraries of commonly used algorithms and resources that the researchers can use.

This research was supported in part from the National Science Foundation through grant no. CMS-0428196 with Dr. S. C. Liu as the Program Director. This support is gratefully acknowledged. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this study are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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