Examples of recent visualization projects

UvA Dynanets/UrbanFlood

The SURFsara Visualization group regularly works on visualization projects with the University of Amsterdam. Two current projects on which we work are Dynanets and UrbanFlood.

In Dynanets, an EU FP7 Fet Open Projects project, methods for working with complex dynamic and hierarchical networks are developed. The project will study and develop a new paradigm of computing through Dynamically Changing Complex Networks, reproducing the way nature processes information. An examples of such a network is the spread of an infectious disease in social groups on different levels (between individuals, between cities, etc). The biological interactions between molecules taking part in the infection could be yet another level.

A common way of representing such networks is using graphs, where, for example, a single node is used to represent an entity and a link represents a relation between entities. The relations might change over time so the dynamics of the network are important. Furthermore, graphs based on real-life phenomena tend to have large numbers of nodes and edges so interaction with and visualization of the graph becomes a challenge. SURFsara works on further developing an existing graph visualization application, including multitouch support and advanced data inspection methods.

This application was used in an episode of the Dutch television program "VPRO Labyrint", detailing research performed on criminal networks. See here for more information (in Dutch).

UrbanFlood is a project supported by the EC 7th Framework Programme investigating the use of sensors within flood embankments to support an online early warning system, real time emergency management and routine asset management. An important part of the project is predicting floods by monitoring dikes and performing flood simulations to detect threats. A goal in visualizing the simulation results is to provide an intuitive and effective platform based on multitouch displays. We provide software development support for both visualization as well as multitouch.

FlySafe / eEcology

The FlySafe project (funded under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research) aimed at increasing air travel safety by developing models and methods for predicting (seasonal) bird migration. Using this information the number of bird strikes with airplanes might be reduced by scheduling flights based on the migration predictions. Different types of input data were used for the prediction models, such as weather information, radar imagery and GPS tracks and accelerometer data of individual birds. The visualization of this input data has been realized by SURFsara for the IBED institute of the University of Amsterdam, in the form of several applications based on Google Earth.

The work done in the FlySafe project is being continued in the eEcology project. In this project an inter-disciplinary team of ecologists and technology experts have developed a novel GPS tracking system that can be used for detailed bird tracking, giving new and exciting insight in bird behavior, enabling researchers to tackle issues related to species ecology, conservation, risk assessment, human-wildlife interactions and much more.

Virtual Supermarket

For the VU University Amsterdam we created a virtual 3D supermarket that is used to gain insight into test subject's shopping behavior when faced with a tight shopping budget. This research was part of a PhD study by Wilma Waterlander of EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Amsterdam.

Using a 3D virtual environment is a cost-effective way of creating a test environment and provides fixed experimental conditions that are exactly the same for each of the test subjects. The products placed in the 3D supermarket model can be tailored to specific needs.Test subjects can 'visit' the supermarket from behind their PC, by simply downloading the 3D application. Just like in a 3D game the subjects navigate within the virtual supermarket, add or remove products from their cart and can see the budget they have left. After a test subject's session is complete the data on their shopping behaviour is uploaded to a central database server.

A first version of the virtual supermarket was used with a large number of Dutch test subjects. In a follow-up project a larger 3D model with more products will be created, as well as a more international focus.

CineGrid Amsterdam

The next digital film standard, '4K' (images 4096 pixels wide), demands changes in many places in traditional cinematographic workflows. Capture, storage, processing and display of such high-resolution image streams has its own challenges. SURFsara is a partner in the CineGrid Amsterdam project, which aims to deal with these challenges and gain expertise in working with 4K material.

Together with the Netherlands Film Academy (NFA) we worked within CineGrid Amsterdam to realize a real-time image processing pipeline in which actors in front of a green screen, a virtual 3D scene and 3D camera tracking are combined. A demonstration of this work was given at the CineGrid International Workshop 2012 in San Diego, see here for a detailed overview (in Dutch)

CineGrid is also one of SURFsara's innovation projects. More information can be found here.

GLIF Streaming Demo / CosmoGrid visualization

Next-generation network connections will have speeds of 40 and even 100 Gbit/s. To show what kind of workloads can be sent over these connections SURFsara demonstrated remote interactive high-resolution visualization at the GLIF Annual Global LambdaGrid 2010 workshop, hosted at CERN, Geneva.

For this demonstration high-resolution images (12,500 x 4,800 pixels per frame) where streamed from Amsterdam to Geneva at roughly 38 Gbit/s and were displayed on our 15-screen Tiled Panel Display (TPD). The data being visualized was a 3D rendering of the CosmoGrid cosmological N-body simulation. Viewers in front of the TPD were able to interactively change visualization properties, such as zoom level and color scheme.

Another important focus of this demonstration was to use a single high-end server as streaming source. In this case, a 16-core system with a number of SSD disks was used.

Information about GLIF can also be found at SURFsara's innovation projects.


The mission of project COAST (funded under the EC's 6th Framework Programme) was to develop a multi-scale, multi-science framework coined Complex Automata for modeling and simulation of complex systems based on a hierarchical aggregation of coupled Cellular Automata and agent-based models. Using the COAST framework a distributed multi-scale simulation of the process of in-stent restenosis was performed, for which SURFsara provided visualization support.

COAST was followed by the currently active MAPPER project (