© since 1995, Eckart Lange, IRL-Institut, ETHZürich

Research Project


Planning with Virtual Alpine Landscapes and AutonomousAgents


The visual quality of the landscape is an important but oftenneglected factor in landscape and environmental planning. Especiallyfor the recreation potential, the quality of the visual landscapeplays a key role.

Up to now, the judgement of human preferences about the landscapeand landscape elements was based on the existing landscape, either bymonitoring people in the real environment or by exposing test personsto visual surrogates such as photographs of the real landscape.

Recent developments in the virtual representation of landscapessuggest that it might be possible to reliably observe the behaviourand deduct landscape preferences of people in a more controlled'laboratory environment' as it is provided through new developmentsin computer and projection technology. Such visualizations permit toshow the visual landscape both at present and at potential futuresituations, giving a tool to systematically investigate how peoplereact to changes in the landscape.

Such a visualization of a changed landscape would be unpopulated,since no data about human behaviour existed for this changedlandscape. Autonomous agents modeling, which is based on conceptsfrom artificial life and computer simulations, enables one topopulate the virtual world with rule-driven agents which can act assurrogates for real humans. The research project seeks to visualize,model, and compare the judgments made by individuals in the realenvironment with judgments of people in the virtual environment andwith judgments gained by autonomous agents modeling. This will be acentral issue in calibrating the models.

The implementation will be via three threads. One will be theinvestigation of recreationist's behaviour in the real environment.This will be used as a benchmark. The second thread will be togenerate a virtual representation of the real environment and then toinvestigate the behaviour of humans in this virtual environment.Third and last we will model synthetic agents in the virtualenvironment. This will enable us to populate the environment withmany agents, meaning that we can investigate agent-agent interactionand crowd behaviour after landscape changes, something that would notbe possible when using real humans in the virtual landscape as in thesecond thread.

The proposed research approach will help to explore, test, andevaluate landscape planning, design, and management alternatives,thereby assisting in the evaluation and management of potentialchanges.



ETH Zürich, Institute for National, Regional and LocalPlanning, Prof.Dr. W. A. Schmid, PD Dr. E. Lange,Duncan Cavens

ETH Zürich, Instituteof Scientific Computing, Prof.Dr. Kai Nagel, Christian Gloor


External Expert by SNF: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Haber, TU München- Weihenstephan


In Collaboration with

Hotelierverein Gstaad Saanenland

Gstaad SaanenlandTourismus



2 / 2002 - 1 / 2005


Supported By

Swiss National Science Foundation

NationalResearch Programme (NRP) Landscapes and Habitats of the Alps(NFP Alps Homepage)


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