VCBM 2010 [Weekly Head Voices #26]

(This post is a slightly longer than average report detailing our trip to the EG VCBM 2010 conference. It’s of course super-entertaining, but if you still do wish to skim through it, I’ve bolded the per-paragraph themes. If you’re not sure what these danged conferences are about, see my recent EuroVis 2010 post for a general introduction.)

Last week, I accompanied Peter Schaafsma (he of the orbital fat mobility paper), Bastijn Vissers and André van Dixhoorn (they of the resting state fMRI brain connectivity paper) to Leipzig, where they had been selected to present their work at the second Eurographics Workshop on Visual Computing for Biology and Medicine (VCBM).

Pretty VCBM logo.

Things got off to a great start when, as we were travelling there by speeding bullet (okay, it was just a brand-new rental Opel, but the Autobahn turns any car into a Speeding Bullet!), we managed to strike, at high speed, a high-quality German plastic bucket that had suddenly appeared right in the middle of the road. After a few more kilometres of noticing that our speeding bullet was not able to pass the very slowly accelerating bullet stage and was making strange disconcerting noises to boot (excuse the automotive pun), we stopped to investigate, noticing to our shock that the bucket, having been very badly burnt, Mustafa-style, was still lodged under the car.

After carefully dislodging the remaining half of the bucket, we were even more shocked to notice that the car was dripping concerning amounts of liquid more or less from the spot where the bucket had been stuck. Further on-site and online investigation by the crew brought to light the following observations: 1) The liquid was not hot, and so probably did not come from the engine. 2) The liquid was tasteless (don’t ask). 3) The air-conditioner had been running all the time, and certainly would have to get rid of water condensate from the cooled air. This latter observation was to us not immediately obvious, but now is, and hopefully to you as well: Automobile air-conditioners often get rid of condensed water through outlets under the car. Phew.

Our speeding bullet tore through the remaining 200 kilometres in record time, where my man Helmut from Vienna and these wonderful brain-boosters were waiting for us on the Nikolaikirchhof:

Leipzig's famous 1 litre brain boosters. Image deliberately deFaced. The arms in the photo might or might not belong to anyone that you know.

The conference kicked off the next morning bright and early with a brilliant keynote by Prof. Anders Ynnerman.  This was related to the great talk he gave in Delft the week before, but even better, as, amongst other things, he had had the Virtual Autopsy multi-touch table shipped all the way to Leipzig to be able to demo live during his presentation. He even managed to undo the evil our projector in Delft had wrought on his laptop’s colour profiles and finally showed his visualisations in their full glory on the projector in the Mediencampus Villa Ida.

The second keynote, given by Dr Roland Bammer, focused on their work on eliminating motion artefacts in brain MRI, both by image post-processing but also, and this is the really cool bit, by mounting a special marker on the forehead of the subject that allows real-time 3D motion tracking and linked real-time low-level correction of the MRI acquisition process. They are currently working hard on getting their tech into users’ hands. Help them by bugging your local Radiology Department about this! :)

The multi-touch virtual autopsy table was available throughout the conference to try out. Two observations: 1. Sometimes the glass surface of the table is harder to work with than the MS Surface's matt finish. 2. It's hard to use the table in environments with too much lighting.

The rest of the scientific program was perfectly varied, consisting of paper presentations, an invited talks session and a posters session, including a plenary fast-forward where each poster author was given three minutes to promote their work.  What really shone throughout the two days, was the superb organisation in Leipzig: Thanks to Dr Alex Wiebel and colleagues, the conference was a text-book example of conference organisation, with each event occurring at exactly the right time, not a moment too soon or a moment too late.  The Mediencampus Ida Villa was the ideal location for the conference, not in the least due to its air-conditioned auditorium shielding us from the more than 30 degrees Celsius outside temperatures. Another important manifestation of the superb organisation were the magical coffee breaks, always taking place exactly when you needed them, with copious amounts of cookies to boot!

Erik Pernod and Herve Delingette won the VCBM 2010 Best Paper award with their paper titled Interactive real time simulation of cardiac radio-frequency ablation, really great work combining elements of simulation, visualisation and a clear clinical application.  The best paper committee had a relatively easy choice, as the reviews (3 to 4 per submission) were also unanimous about this paper’s ranking. As an added bonus, the work is available within the open-source SOFA framework.

My personal and completely biased Head Voices VCBM 2010 Best Talk Award however, goes to the invited talk by Marc Streit and Alexander Lex on Caleydo: Visual Analysis of Biomolecular Data. The presentation was an extremely entertaining show by two skilled speakers, striking just the right balance between focus and variety as they demonstrated several aspects of their Caleydo visual analysis software.  At several points, for example the explicit visual linking of different heterogeneous data sources (paper here, youtube video here, see here for other publications.), I had the typical reaction to good scientific contributions: Now why didn’t I think of that?!

Three to four of the VCBM 2010 papers (this includes the best paper of course) will soon be selected to submit an extended version to the forthcoming special issue in the Computers and Graphics journal on Visual Computing for Biology and Medicine.  Very importantly: Everyone is welcome to submit an aptly themed paper to this special issue! See the C&G special issue on VCBM call for papers for more information.

On a more personal note: This was the second VCBM workshop, with the first having been held in Delft in 2008, organised by yours truly. It was really great in Leipzig experiencing the growing community around this event and especially connecting with some of my favourite people. I’m greatly looking forward to future VCBM workshops, which makes it doubly cool that  VCBM 2012 will be hosted by Prof. Anders Ynnerman in Linköping (Sweden) and that after that, it will become a yearly phenomenon.

Will you join us?

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