Welcome to the Virtual Reality & Immersive Visualization Group
at RWTH Aachen University!

The Virtual Reality and Immersive Visualization Group started in 1998 as a service team in the RWTH IT Center. Since 2015, we are a research group (Lehr- und Forschungsgebiet) at i12 within the Computer Science Department. Moreover, the Group is member of the Visual Computing Institute and continues to be an integral part of the RWTH IT Center.

In a unique combination of research, teaching, services, and infrastructure, we provide Virtual Reality technologies and the underlying methodology as a powerful tool for scientific-technological applications.

In terms of basic research, we develop advanced methods and algorithms for multimodal 3D user interfaces and explorative analyses in virtual environments. Furthermore, we focus on application-driven, interdisciplinary research in collaboration with RWTH Aachen institutes, Forschungszentrum Jülich, research institutions worldwide, and partners from business and industry, covering fields like simulation science, production technology, neuroscience, and medicine.

To this end, we are members of / associated with the following institutes and facilities:

Our offices are located in the RWTH IT Center, where we operate one the largest Virtual Reality labs worldwide. The aixCAVE, a 30 sqm visualization chamber, makes it possible to interactively explore virtual worlds, is open to use by any RWTH Aachen research group.

The Innovation Factory on RWTH Aachen Campus ...

... is ready for take-off and introduces itself to the public with a short video clip on youtube. Of course, VR is involved here as well - as one digital tool used in the development stage to gain initial insights.

Jan. 18, 2019

Sebastian Freitag receives doctoral degree from RWTH Aachen University

Today, our colleague Sebastian Freitag successfully passed his Ph.D. defense and received a doctoral degree from RWTH Aachen University for his thesis on "Supported Navigation in Immersive Virtual Environments". Congratulations!

Sept. 27, 2018

Tom Vierjahn takes over professorship for Computer Science at WH Bocholt

Today we had to say goodbye to our dear friend and colleague Tom Vierjahn. After four years of significant commitment and high personal involvement in our group’s research and teaching activities, Tom now takes over professorship at the Department of Business Studies and Information Technology at the Westphalian University of Applied Sciences in Bocholt. We will sadly miss him in Aachen, however, we wish him much fun and all the best for the new tasks and challenges ahead.

Our warmest congratulations, Prof. Dr. Tom Vierjahn!

Aug. 30, 2018

Successful Presentations at ISC'18

At this year's International Supercomputing Conference from June 24 - 28, 2018 in Frankfurt scientists of the JARA-HPC presented latest research results at the exhibition and organized a workshop on In Situ Visualization.


July 17, 2018

Matt Larsen visits our group.

Matt Larsen is a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Oregon in 2016. He is the primary developer for the ASCENT in situ library, as well as a key contributor to the VTK-m library and the VisIt visualization software. Matt's research interests include rendering for visualization, performance modeling for visualization, and many-core architectures.

July 11, 2018

Bernd Hentschel jointly organized a Dagstuhl Seminar on "In Situ Visualization for Computational Science"

Janine Bennett (Sandia National Lab, CA), Hank Childs (University of Oregon), Christoph Garth (TU Kaiserslautern), and Bernd Hentschel jointly organized a Dagstuhl Seminar on "In Situ Visualization for Computational Science". Being held in Schloss Dagstuhl, Germany between 2-6 July, the seminar brought together 39 experts from the fields of computational science, high-performance computing, and large-scale data visualization in order to discuss challenges and research opportunities with respect to highly scalable in situ visualization methods. Over the course of four and a half days, participants discussed a variety of topics in small working groups. The results of these discussions will be disseminated as a Dagstuhl Report, which outlines the current state of the field as well as a mid-term research agenda. Find more info at https://www.dagstuhl.de/de/programm/kalender/semhp/?semnr=18271.

July 2, 2018

Recent Publications

Toward Rigorous Parameterization of Underconstrained Neural Network Models Through Interactive Visualization and Steering of Connectivity Generation

Frontiers in Neuroinformatics 12, article 32

Simulation models in many scientific fields can have non-unique solutions or unique solutions which can be difficult to find. Moreover, in evolving systems, unique ?nal state solutions can be reached by multiple different trajectories. Neuroscience is no exception. Often, neural network models are subject to parameter fitting to obtain desirable output comparable to experimental data. Parameter fitting without sufficient constraints and a systematic exploration of the possible solution space can lead to conclusions valid only around local minima or around non-minima. To address this issue, we have developed an interactive tool for visualizing and steering parameters in neural network simulation models. In this work, we focus particularly on connectivity generation, since ?nding suitable connectivity configurations for neural network models constitutes a complex parameter search scenario. The development of the tool has been guided by several use cases—the tool allows researchers to steer the parameters of the connectivity generation during the simulation, thus quickly growing networks composed of multiple populations with a targeted mean activity. The flexibility of the software allows scientists to explore other connectivity and neuron variables apart from the ones presented as use cases. With this tool, we enable an interactive exploration of parameter spaces and a better understanding of neural network models and grapple with the crucial problem of non-unique network solutions and trajectories. In addition, we observe a reduction in turn around times for the assessment of these models, due to interactive visualization while the simulation is computed.


VIOLA : a Multi-Purpose and Web-Based Visualization Tool for Neuronal-Network Simulation Output

Frontiers in Neuroinformatics 12, article 75

Neuronal network models and corresponding computer simulations are invaluable tools to aid the interpretation of the relationship between neuron properties, connectivity, and measured activity in cortical tissue. Spatiotemporal patterns of activity propagating across the cortical surface as observed experimentally can for example be described by neuronal network models with layered geometry and distance-dependent connectivity. In order to cover the surface area captured by today’s experimental techniques and to achieve sufficient self-consistency, such models contain millions of nerve cells. The interpretation of the resulting stream of multi-modal and multi-dimensional simulation data calls for integrating interactive visualization steps into existing simulation-analysis workflows. Here, we present a set of interactive visualization concepts called views for the visual analysis of activity data in topological network models, and a corresponding reference implementation VIOLA (VIsualization Of Layer Activity). The software is a lightweight, open-source, web-based, and platform-independent application combining and adapting modern interactive visualization paradigms, such as coordinated multiple views, for massively parallel neurophysiological data. For a use-case demonstration we consider spiking activity data of a two-population, layered point-neuron network model incorporating distance-dependent connectivity subject to a spatially confined excitation originating from an external population. With the multiple coordinated views, an explorative and qualitative assessment of the spatiotemporal features of neuronal activity can be performed upfront of a detailed quantitative data analysis of speci?c aspects of the data. Interactive multi-view analysis therefore assists existing data Analysis workflows. Furthermore,ongoingeffortsincludingtheEuropeanHumanBrainProjectaim at providing online user portals for integrated model development, simulation, analysis, and provenance tracking, wherein interactive visual analysis tools are one component. Browser-compatible, web-technology based solutions are therefore required. Within this scope, with VIOLA we provide a first prototype.


Immersive Analytics Applications in Life and Health Sciences

In Kim Marriott, Falk Schreiber et al. (eds.): Immersive Analytics, Springer International Publishing, pp. 289-330.

Life and health sciences are key application areas for immersive analytics. This spans a broad range including medicine (e.g., investigations in tumour boards), pharmacology (e.g., research of adverse drug reactions), biology (e.g., immersive virtual cells) and ecology (e.g., analytics of animal behaviour). We present a brief overview of general applications of immersive analytics in the life and health sciences, and present a number of applications in detail, such as immersive analytics in structural biology, in medical image analytics, in neurosciences, in epidemiology, in biological network analysis and for virtual cells.

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