According to The Nikkei Asian Review, controlling crowd movement at large stadiums can be a major challenge, especially in emergencies. Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has teamed up with one of the country's top professional soccer teams to tackle the problem using artificial intelligence.
The huge research institute -- part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry -- is partnering with the Kashima Antlers F.C. to better manage crowds and perform other tasks at 40,000-seat Kashima Soccer Stadium in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.
"A soccer stadium is a treasure trove of research subjects," says Masahiro Seto, a fellow at AIST's Research and Innovation Promotion Headquarters.
AIST uses its AI-based "people flow analysis" program to generate simulations of crowds that show spectator movement. Red dots indicate choke points, while green dots show where people can move smoothly.
When an AIST researcher demonstrated the program, the presence of green dots increased very slowly. "It shows that the flow of people after a game at a 40,000-seat stadium tends to block up," explained the researcher.
AIST plans to use the simulator to assess the effectiveness of the current route-guidance system at the stadium, starting with the 2018 season.
Every time the stadium hosts an Antlers game, it and the surrounding areas become congested afterward, posing a serious crowd control challenge. The project will analyze the flow of people at locations inside the venue in order to determine ways to ease the congestion. This will also help prevent accidents and boost sales at stadium stores.
AIST already has experience in crowd control. The institute participated in two live evacuation drills at New National Theater Tokyo, analyzing how an audience of more than 1,000 would evacuate in the event of a large earthquake.
During the first drill, the institute studied the paths taken by participants to exit the venue during the simulated emergency. Findings were then used to improve evacuation routes, which were applied to the second drill, resulting in a smoother evacuation.
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