image tygron250Tygron is an online 3D multiplayer gaming platform for city planning. In Tygron, communities can generate and maintain their realistic multiplayer environments to experiment, plan and negotiate better solutions for city designs and development projects. The technology allows stakeholders to explore a variety of issues such as urban design approaches, planning policies, infrastructure needs and financial viability.

 

 

Stakeholders are given a planning challenge and a certain time frame in which to complete it. To help them complete this challenge, Tygron supplies a realistic 3D world with real-life indicators taken from GIS information systems and city datasets to display the effects on the world. They must heed effects such as livability, parking, heat stress and population densities, while staying within the allocated budgets and real-life governmental regulations.

Fig. 1 - View on Brooklyn Bridge from within TygronFig. 1 - View on Brooklyn Bridge from within Tygron

Tygron is used by consultants and planners involved in urban challenges such as master planning, densification, resiliency, affordable housing issues and designing Greenfields. It has been proven to be an extremely powerful tool for streamlining planning processes. It also reduces litigation and sharply increases the return on investment for urban projects.

Create a city planning game
The Tygron engine is a game engine, especially designed to generate and maintain online, multiplayer serious games for spatial development. The software is designed to be used by non-programmers, providing the user a suite of visual development tools in addition to reusable software components. In addition, the Engine uses templates to rapidly set up games.

These tools are generally provided in an integrated development environment to enable simplified, rapid development of games in a data-driven manner: 

Creating a 3D world - The user can select a real world location by using our map viewer. The Tygron Engine is then able to generate a 3D world for the project by using available, online, worldwide data sources. Cadastral, Image and Height information are among the sources used. Recently, a connection with Esri’s ArcGIS platform has been made in order to obtain information from these sources. The Tygron Engine creates a realistic representation of the selected location, both visually and in data.

Creating game content - The platform allows you to model each stakeholder, including their behavior, rights and actions. Data-entry for the game is done by sheets, very similar to Microsoft Excel sheets, and real time feedback is given.

Fig. 2 - Figure 2: Example of data entry, and the effect of the data on an overlay on the 3D worldFig. 2 - Example of data entry, and the effect of the data on an overlay on the 3D world

Play your city planning game
"You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than you can from a lifetime of conversation" – Plato
A game created with the Tygron Engine is available online and can be played an unlimited number of times. By placing the stakeholders in a common environment with the case at hand, it is possible to experiment and discuss the real situation, supported by direct feedback of the virtual 3D platform.

Game sessions are powerful to bring the stakeholders together and make them find win-win situations. The software is designed to support planners, consultants and others involved in stakeholder engagement in urban planning.

Stakeholders can be mobilized around a shared agenda, gain insight and explore solutions that will be beneficial for all parties. The Tygron Web Application uses account management to enable users to maintain their proper project user groups. Sessions can be saved and reloaded to continue discussions and problem solving.

The user is free to determine the usage of the game. He can share the game with entire communities or to experiment in smaller groups to try out solutions between decision makers, to enhance the trust and to prevent someone (for example a mayor) from losing face.

A serious game as a living document
Designing and implementing urban projects takes years. During those years, the knowledge, the environment and also the stakeholders can change. For example, the profitability of a project can change due to a recession, or a local government can change its priorities after elections. All these changes can result in the stagnation of urban projects.
Tygron is designed to support urban planning in every stage of the process.

All the data and the assumptions can be changed in real time. This allows our clients to rapidly explore the impact of these changes together with their stakeholders and to find solutions for potential problems during the process. Therefore, the game becomes a living document. Over time, the software becomes a backlog of decisions and changes.

Demand for active and transparent engagement
By applying our software and the approach of active and transparent engagement of the stakeholders, we’ve learned how powerful our technology actually is. We’ve found that there is a great need for processes and technologies that help these stakeholders to collaborate, negotiate and develop scenarios in city planning.

One of Tygron´s early clients is a local government which had sold a piece of land to a project developer. The stakeholders were gridlocked in litigation for 5 years over the development of that particular piece of land. Residents feared the project would bring more traffic to their neighborhood and the livability would decrease due to densification of the area. The local authorities refused to grant a permit for the development until the project developer agreed to allocate a part of the land for water storage to prevent inundation. By then, the project developer had lost over 12 million Euro in Return on Investment due to delays.

The deadlock between the stakeholders resulted in time consuming and costly lawsuits. Even worse, the frustration in the community was growing and the development of the community was stagnating. Each stakeholder seemed to be defending their own interests by advocating their own plans. As a result, the local infrastructure was degrading, a local school was facing a decline in their number of students and what was even worse is that the area became unsafe, resulting in a sharp reduction of livability. This all happened due to the stagnation of the project.

Fig.3 - Figure 2: A rendition of the problem area, completely generated by open data and adjustable in TygronFig.3 - A rendition of the problem area, completely generated by open data and adjustable in Tygron

The challenge is that in a more traditional approach, each stakeholder would hire their own consultants and architects and supply them with their own plan and arguments supporting their perspective. They would also have their own lawyers defending their point of view.

This is where Tygron was introduced into the process and where it was used to untwine the deadlock situation. A serious game was created for the area. This game was used by the local planner to facilitate the mediation.

Software as a Service
Due to the massively growing demand, Tygron had to decide whether it would want to keep growing as a consultancy company or if it wanted to look at the market through a different approach. Our desire to become a leading software company for city planning led us to decide for a focus on Software as a Service (SaaS).

Fig. 4 - NY recently applied the Tygron Engine as a tool for Transferring Development Rights (TDR) in Manhattan's Lower East Side Fig. 4 - NY recently applied the Tygron Engine as a tool for Transferring Development Rights (TDR) in Manhattan's Lower East Side

Since 2013, clients can subscribe to our online platform to generate and maintain their realistic multiplayer environment to experiment, plan and negotiate better solutions for city designs and development projects. This allows us to focus on our strengths as a software developer with a multitude of applied serious gaming expertise.

In 2013, Tygron subscribed its first client in the USA; WXY. WXY is a New York based architecture and urban planning firm. Their first project with the Tygron Engine was a Westchester County program to develop affordable housing in the wake of a lawsuit brought by the Anti-Discrimination Center. James E. Johnson, the federal monitor who was appointed to oversee the settlement, called on WXY to help residents see affordable housing in a new light.

“The challenge is: how do you do something that’s going to get people to think differently about this stuff?” asked Lubinsky, managing partner at WXY Studios. “We talked a lot about the value of design. We really struggled with this idea of design as something that could get people to appreciate it.” At a series of public workshops, WXY presented Westchester residents with physical models that were built by using the Tygron Engine. “What this allowed us to do, was to look at design opportunities relative to the site, but also provide this immediate planning feedback.” said Lubinsky. “That was a real disruptive moment.”

The great thing about the SaaS model is that our users show us how to apply the software for local discussions. For example, some City & Regional Planning students at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY recently applied the Tygron Engine as a tool for Transferring Development Rights (TDR) in Manhattan's Lower East Side (more)

Tygron recent development
Over the past six months, the Tygron Engine has gone through several fundamental changes. These can be categorized into the Esri connection, the REST API and the Oculus Rift. If you are interested in the longer term planning which shows the introduction of new features and versions, click here.

ESRI connection
In the past, we used OpenStreetMaps services as a basis for the 3D world generation of games. More recently, in collaboration with Esri, we experimented with extracting data from geographical information layers in ArcGIS Online, Esri’s cloud solution, to create our games. This allows us to access new and more detailed information such as formal building information, height, satellite imagery and demographics.

Fig. 5 - Figure 1 Detailed formal building information in ArcGIS Online; towards Tygron’s 3D worldFig. 5 - Detailed formal building information in ArcGIS Online; towards Tygron’s 3D world

Furthermore, we switched from a tile based representation to a more detailed polygonal representation. The second representation is in par with the way the information is stored in GIS services. This is a generally accepted format which makes it easier to read from and write to the GIS format.

Fig. 6 - a tile based representation to a more detailed polygonal representation. Fig. 6 - A tile based representation to a more detailed polygonal representation

REST API
The connection to the Esri ArcGIS platform allowed us to rethink the way we communicated on the web. We decided to switch to the Representational State Transfer (REST) API, which is widely accepted as a solution for creating web services. This architectural style or design pattern allows anything connected to a network to communicate via the HTTP protocol. By switching to this API and adhering to a standard, communication with other services and our own services became a lot easier. It allows the Tygron Engine to couple to and be coupled to other systems, making it easier to integrate several separate systems into one.

Fig. 7 - Oculus Rift with the Tygron EngineFig. 7 - Oculus Rift with the Tygron Engine

Oculus Rift
Also fun to note is that we’ve recently successfully connected the Oculus Rift with the Tygron Engine, allowing users to explore their developed city plan while walking around as a pedestrian!

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Tygron company
Tygron was founded in 2005 in the Netherlands as a spinoff of the Delft University of Technology. The creators of Tygron started with a very simple idea; support city planning by allowing stakeholders to experiment different scenarios in a realistic 3D environment. Heavily inspired by city building games such as Sim-City® and LinCity®, their ambition was to create a gaming engine for city building games. Games based on accurate data, realistic models and the inclusion of a democratic aspect. We call it the Tygron Engine. 

For more information:
- Tygron
ESRI ArcGIS Platform
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 Study of Transferring Development Rights (TDR) in Manhattan's Lower East Side (Cornell University / AAP)

Author information:
Florian Witsenburg is the owner and CEO of Tygron. As CEO of Tygron, which he joined in 2010, his goal has been to expand from a one project company to an organization that now manages multiple commercial projects internationally. Having developed a strategy for the US market, Florian opened a Tygron office in NY in 2013 and is now selling licenses to urban planning groups. With an eye to continued growth, he has put renewed emphasis on R&D to maintain the company’s technological edge. Florian is currently a member of a Dutch government Smart Cities group. He is guest lecturer in Software Use for Community Engagement, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University.