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The University of Tokyo and SEC release free software that quantifies spaces where people can interact with ease


How can we design architectural spaces to easily facilitate interactions between people? Spatial architects to date have had to rely on experience and instinct to produce these spaces. However, a research group led by Associate Professor Yudai Honma of the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, and Systems Engineering Consultants Co., Ltd. (SEC) has developed software that uses mathematical optimization to express places where interaction is likely to occur in real-time using colors. The group has now made this software available free of charge on GitHub. The project was presented at the fall meeting of the Operations Research Society of Japan.

Improvements in architectural technologies have led to an increased number of buildings with complex and diverse shapes. However, cognitively analyzing how people perceive these designed spaces to enable quantitative evaluations is a challenge, despite various mathematical methods being proposed. For this reason, the initial phases of creating a general design for spaces have relied on the instinct and experience of spatial architects. The best example of this can be seen in the concept of public spaces, where people are expected to interact actively, versus private spaces, where individuals are able to concentrate quietly. But unfortunately, these concepts are difficult to convey quantitatively.

The Honma Laboratory focused on convex spaces (areas where people can see each other and establish equal relationships) as a unit of space with a feeling of unity and proposed a method to utilize the distribution of these convex spaces to visualize public and private spaces. Mathematically, it proposed a new algorithm that exhaustively enumerates tens to hundreds of thousands of possible convex spaces within a space with complex geometry. However, this algorithm was challenging to use for non-experts.

The group realized it needed to enable anyone involved in spatial architecture to use the algorithm and in response, it developed Convex Space Visualizer, a software package that visualizes spatial characteristics by enumerating convex spaces.

It can visualize the hot spots where people will likely interact in architectural and urban spaces as shades of color in real time. It enables quantitative visualizations of public and private spaces, which relied on instinctual spatial design until now. As such, the software could be a game changer in a wide range of spatial designs, such as for floor layouts in residential buildings and interior design, or in making use of spaces in front of train stations and in parks.

The spatial shapes to be analyzed can be easily entered with a mouse, and minor modifications to these shapes can also be easily made. The software rapidly enumerates tens or hundreds of thousands of possible convex spaces, with the results of the analysis output in real-time, in less than a few seconds.

It thus enables proactive participation from users of spaces rather than relying solely on designers to create spaces. It also enables designers to communicate the intent of their proposed spatial shapes to users in a more persuasive manner.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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