Procedural Ocean

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Starting Date – January 1, 2023
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As part of a broader maritime spatial planning process, governments make plans for specific sea areas, such as an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. These wind farms would be developed very far out at sea, typically hundred of kilometres from shore. Typically government employees never actually see them. Moreover, they need to rely heavily on knowledge from reports, articles and external experts to slowly start to understand the specifics and broader consequences of developing and operating such a wind farm, if they even manage to achieve this before they make the decision.

Procedural Ocean View procedurally and automatically generates 3D environments in Unreal or Unity game engines based on user-defined input parameters, particularly concerning offshore wind farms. As such, without much manual labour it offers a realistic depiction of what planned offshore wind farms could actually look and behave like. It is designed to aid the learning, policy- and decision-making process of planners and stakeholders of specific offshore areas.


We see a need to innovate the way we talk, discuss, learn, make plans and take decisions about our seas and oceans. We have to look at the sea from a broader and longer term perspective.

We think that planning and decision-making about the maritime economy and marine ecosystems can become more intelligent, interactive and immersive. By making use of emerging digital technologies, such as games and virtual reality, we can connect geo, maritime and marine data, with ecological modelling and maritime simulations.

Since 2018, Cradle R&D lab staff and interns have worked on proving the concept that an immersive 3D (VR) environment can help marine planners learn more about the specifics and broader consequences of their plans.

In 2023 the lab took a next step. Using procedural and automatic content generation techniques, they started working on having these 3D (VR) environments no longer created by hand.

The goal is to have short (less than an hour), immersive, interactive 3D experiences (or digital twins of the ocean, if you will) that are procedurally, automatically and quickly generated based on input parameters that a user defines through typically other software such as the MSP Challenge Simulation Platform.

In these experiences the user learns more about the specifics and broader consequences of their proposed wind farm. For example, how many turbines would actually be possible in the defined area, given different types of turbines at the user’s disposal? What would the construction operations actually look like, and under what weather conditions would they no longer be possible?

We are currently developing the base functionality of having the 3D environment generated in either Unreal or Unity. The types of content we are firstly focusing on are environmental conditions (think of sea floor characteristics, sea depth, weather), biological conditions (different species of fish, mammals, etc) and human activities (notably offshore wind energy development, including the involved specialist vessels).


The R&D work is possible thanks to several projects involving dozens of universities, companies and governmental organisations, mostly funded by the European Union through its Horizon 2020 and Interreg funding schemes, as well as Dutch national public-private partnership funding. In these projects, we work closely with experts on maritime spatial planning and offshore operations to get the data, information and knowledge we need to design and develop prototypes.

We also co-develop the actual software with certain partners. Internal and then external tests with the target audiences involved in these projects will be the basis for new iterations of design and prototyping.

This process will continue for the next years. We will define and encounter many design and development challenges along the way, which will be the subject of publications and presentations.


At the time of writing we have a base JSON file with a base set of 3D models, from which an Unreal 5.1 or Unity 2022 offshore wind farm is generated.

We are working on supporting more and more environmental conditions, ecological conditions and human activities. We are also working on having the JSON generated by the MSP Challenge Simulation Platform, when a certain API endpoint is called. That way a specific MSP Challenge plan (set) could be the trigger to generate the 3D environment in Unreal or Unity.

Technical Details

Early prototypes use Unreal 5.1 and Unity 2022 at the time of writing. More technical details will come out as prototyping and testing continues.

Research Output

We conduct the following types of research along the way:

  • Technical/engineering research, mainly pertaining to definition of the right input data formats and protocols, translating static and dynamic input data of a type or standard to one that the Unity or Unreal game engine can handle, using or developing appropriate and applicable algorithms for the procedural generation of content, and surely many other challenges to come.
  • Design research, mainly pertaining to designing the overall user experience as well as the graphical user interfaces for actually using the generated 3D scene on different (VR) devices.
  • Application/intervention research, mainly pertaining to applying the software with specific use cases to see whether the appropriate target audience find the generated 3D scene useful given their own specific objectives.

The output should help the marine and maritime planning and development communities, and help ourselves in retaining what we actually learned for other and future projects, also regardless of this domain.        BUas Pure Portal: Digishape/Digitwin Noordzee    BUas Pure Portal: <br>Iliad – Digital Twin of the Ocean


We mostly work within large project consortia. Although the project list is relatively short, the total number of partners involved is several dozens. Instead of listing all partners, we therefore list the projects.

Project Manager

Carlos Pereira Santos

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