If you had given up on Virtual Finger in the past because it didn’t do what you intended, or created some weird traces, you should give it another try!
We invented a brand new algorithm that is super fast, does the right thing when user makes small trace errors, and handles intelligently erroneous traces in empty space. It should work on any connected trace in the volume. It will intentionally not trace over empty space because it is specifically looking for continuous portions of the neuron. For traces over neuronal signal, it is very accurate even when a person’s trace is not. In fact, we think you can now trace even with your toe. We should probably call it Virtual Toe. Now, it’s still new, so we may have missed something. We challenge you to find any connected trace where Virtual Toe creates a weird trace. Special callout to all who find a confirmed bug.
Rendering performance is also drastically improved, allowing the game to work on computers with lesser graphics capabilities. Rendering the view is now done in two separate layers, where the volumetric image (3D image) is rendered independently from the “geometry” (edges, nodes, hotspot boundaries, comment boxes, etc.) One nice consequence of this is that we no longer need draw the geometry at 1/3 resolution when we render volume at 1/3 of resolution (e.g. during rotation). Previously, that meant that the entire view became blurry while zooming around, including geometry and text. Now dropping down to a 1/3 resolution is almost unnoticeable. Moving the mouse around, hovering over nodes and comments, virtual finger, deleting nodes and branches and any manipulations that do not require moving the camera (zoom, rotate, pan) will now be much more responsive.
We also found a rendering issue that was washing out the neuron signal. You will notice that all volumes now have 20% more contrast in the image. I bet you’ll be able to see more faint signal now than before. Play with the contrast slider, making it brighter will bring out more signal than in the past.
Exciting news for Seattle-area Mozak players! The Allen Institute for Brain Science has opened up a part-time neuronal reconstruction position and are hoping some Mozak players will apply! This is an amazing chance to take those tracing skills to a professional level. This is a paid, part-time position. If you are interested, check out the Allen Institute’s job postings page and look for Research Associate I - (Temporary/Contracted Leave Positions) in the Morphology and 3D Reconstruction department. Best of luck and happy tracing!
The 48-hour Games for Change Neuron Challenge begins now!!! Let’s see how many complete and fully connected neurons we can reconstruct over the next couple days. Big things to look out for: faint signals and disconnected areas. You may notice that there is a little guide on the side of the challenge indicating whether it is the optimal time to be tracing or connecting. You will receive 2x points for tracing during the “trace stage” and for connecting during the “connect stage”, however you can do any activity during any stage.
Thank you to our community of players who have helped us put Mozak on the map. And welcome to our new players!
On June 28th, Mozak’s principal investigator Zoran Popović will be speaking at the Games for Change Festival in New York City. He will be sharing the incredible work this community has accomplished so far and what our goals for the upcoming year will be. To showcase Mozak’s community-accelerating reconstruction speed, we are launching a Games for Change Reconstruction Challenge. How many neurons can we reconstruct over the 2 days of the festival? Can we complete more than one full neuron per day? We’ll find out soon! During the Challenge, scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and our team will be providing expert feedback on partial reconstructions every 15 minutes to enhance collaboration and skill acquisition of both incoming and long-time players. We will begin the challenge at 9am EST on Thursday, June 28th and conclude 48 hours later on June 30th. Happy tracing, everyone!