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Virtual reality crowd simulation: effects of agent density on user experience and behaviour

Dickinson, Patrick; Gerling, Kathrin; Hicks, Kieran; Murray, John; Shearer, John; Greenwood, Jacob


Patrick Dickinson

Kathrin Gerling

Kieran Hicks

John Shearer

Jacob Greenwood


Agent-based crowd simulations are used for modelling building and space usage, allowing designers to explore hypothetical real-world scenarios, including extraordinary events such as evacuations. Existing work which engages virtual reality (VR) as a platform for crowd simulations has been primarily focussed on the validation of simulation models through observation; the use of interactions such as gaze to enhance a sense of immersion; or studies of proxemics. In this work, we extend previous studies of proxemics and examine the effects of varying crowd density on user experience and behaviour. We have created a simulation in which participants walk freely and perform a routine manual task, whilst interacting with agents controlled by a typical social force simulation model. We examine and report the effects of crowd density on both affective state and behaviour. Our results show a significant increase in negative affect with density, measured using a self-report scale. We further show significant differences in some aspects of user behaviours, using video analysis, and discuss how our results relate to VR simulation design for mixed human–agent scenarios.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-03
Journal Virtual Reality
Print ISSN 1359-4338
Electronic ISSN 1434-9957
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 19-32
APA6 Citation Dickinson, P., Gerling, K., Hicks, K., Murray, J., Shearer, J., & Greenwood, J. (2019). Virtual reality crowd simulation: effects of agent density on user experience and behaviour. Virtualreality : the journal of the Virtual Reality Society, 23(1), 19-32.
Keywords Human-Computer Interaction; Software; Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design; Crowd stimulation; User experience; Agent density
Publisher URL


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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2018
Open Access
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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