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Bionic Tracking: Using Eye Tracking to Track Biological Cells in Virtual Reality

Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNIP,volume 12535)


We present Bionic Tracking, a novel method for solving biological cell tracking problems with eye tracking in virtual reality using commodity hardware. Using gaze data, and especially smooth pursuit eye movements, we are able to track cells in time series of 3D volumetric datasets. The problem of tracking cells is ubiquitous in developmental biology, where large volumetric microscopy datasets are acquired on a daily basis, often comprising hundreds or thousands of time points that span hours or days. The image data, however, is only a means to an end, and scientists are often interested in the reconstruction of cell trajectories and cell lineage trees. Reliably tracking cells in crowded three-dimensional space over many time points remains an open problem, and many current approaches rely on tedious manual annotation or curation. In the Bionic Tracking approach, we substitute the usual 2D point-and-click interface for annotation or curation with eye tracking in a virtual reality headset, where users follow cells with their eyes in 3D space in order to track them. We detail the interaction design of our approach and explain the graph-based algorithm used to connect different time points, also taking occlusion and user distraction into account. We demonstrate Bionic Tracking using examples from two different biological datasets. Finally, we report on a user study with seven cell tracking experts, highlighting the benefits and limitations of Bionic Tracking compared to point-and-click interfaces.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-66415-2_18
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The authors thank all participants of the user study. Thanks to Mette Handberg-Thorsager for providing the Platynereis dataset and for feedback on the manuscript. Thanks to Vladimir Ulman and Jean-Yves Tinevez for helpful discussions regarding track comparison. Thanks to Bevan Cheeseman, Aryaman Gupta, and Stefanie Schmidt for helpful discussions. Thanks to Pupil Labs for help with the eye tracking calibration.

This work was partially funded by the Center for Advanced Systems Understanding (CASUS), financed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and by the Saxon Ministry for Science, Culture and Tourism (SMWK) with tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.

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Günther, U., Harrington, K.I.S., Dachselt, R., Sbalzarini, I.F. (2020). Bionic Tracking: Using Eye Tracking to Track Biological Cells in Virtual Reality. In: Bartoli, A., Fusiello, A. (eds) Computer Vision – ECCV 2020 Workshops. ECCV 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12535. Springer, Cham.

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