#1045: EsCape

When a crowd of people tries to escape from eg a crashed aircraft, all sorts of counterintuitive things take place. An obstacle placed near the exit actually splits an escaping throng and can speed up everyone’s departure.

Today’s invention is suggested as an approach to helping individuals in a crowd get away from eg a crash landing. It’s based on the idea that people are less than optimally guided when frightened and confused by their view of what’s going on.


Passenger seats would each be equipped with an opaque fabric hood (this would still allow breathing but limit smoke ingress somewhat). The hood would have the equivalent of a mobile phone inside driving a number of circumferential buzzers.

A fireproofed system on the plane would know the seat layout and pressure sensors on the floor would form a map of the locations of people and potential obstacles.

Passengers in a crash landing would have been trained to don the hood and move in the direction of the active buzzer from moment to moment -even stopping briefly as directed.

The buzzer behaviour would be determined, for any individual, by an algorithm determining how to channel and time people’s movements based on the locations and movements of other passengers.

(This might work best for highly trained people, such as naval personnel, inside a burning ship).