• Interactive Three-Dimensional Simulation and Visualisation of Real Time Blood Flow in Vascular Networks

      John, Nigel; Pop, Serban; Holland, Mark, I (University of ChesterUnviersity of Chester, 2020-05)
      One of the challenges in cardiovascular disease management is the clinical decision-making process. When a clinician is dealing with complex and uncertain situations, the decision on whether or how to intervene is made based upon distinct information from diverse sources. There are several variables that can affect how the vascular system responds to treatment. These include: the extent of the damage and scarring, the efficiency of blood flow remodelling, and any associated pathology. Moreover, the effect of an intervention may lead to further unforeseen complications (e.g. another stenosis may be “hidden” further along the vessel). Currently, there is no tool for predicting or exploring such scenarios. This thesis explores the development of a highly adaptive real-time simulation of blood flow that considers patient specific data and clinician interaction. The simulation should model blood realistically, accurately, and through complex vascular networks in real-time. Developing robust flow scenarios that can be incorporated into the decision and planning medical tool set. The focus will be on specific regions of the anatomy, where accuracy is of the utmost importance and the flow can develop into specific patterns, with the aim of better understanding their condition and predicting factors of their future evolution. Results from the validation of the simulation showed promising comparisons with the literature and demonstrated a viability for clinical use.
    • De-smokeGCN: Generative Cooperative Networks for Joint Surgical Smoke Detection and Removal

      Chen, Long; Tang, Wen; John, Nigel W.; Wan, Tao Ruan; Zhang, Jian Jun; Bournemouth University; University of Chester; University of Bradford (IEEE XPlore, 2019-11-15)
      Surgical smoke removal algorithms can improve the quality of intra-operative imaging and reduce hazards in image-guided surgery, a highly desirable post-process for many clinical applications. These algorithms also enable effective computer vision tasks for future robotic surgery. In this paper, we present a new unsupervised learning framework for high-quality pixel-wise smoke detection and removal. One of the well recognized grand challenges in using convolutional neural networks (CNNs) for medical image processing is to obtain intra-operative medical imaging datasets for network training and validation, but availability and quality of these datasets are scarce. Our novel training framework does not require ground-truth image pairs. Instead, it learns purely from computer-generated simulation images. This approach opens up new avenues and bridges a substantial gap between conventional non-learning based methods and which requiring prior knowledge gained from extensive training datasets. Inspired by the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), we have developed a novel generative-collaborative learning scheme that decomposes the de-smoke process into two separate tasks: smoke detection and smoke removal. The detection network is used as prior knowledge, and also as a loss function to maximize its support for training of the smoke removal network. Quantitative and qualitative studies show that the proposed training framework outperforms the state-of-the-art de-smoking approaches including the latest GAN framework (such as PIX2PIX). Although trained on synthetic images, experimental results on clinical images have proved the effectiveness of the proposed network for detecting and removing surgical smoke on both simulated and real-world laparoscopic images.
    • Virtual Reality Environment for the Cognitive Rehabilitation of Stroke Patients

      John, Nigel W.; Day, Thomas W.; Pop, Serban R.; Chatterjee, Kausik; Cottrell, Katy; Buchanan, Alastair; Roberts, Jonathan; University of Chester; Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Cadscan Ltd (IEEE, 2019-10-14)
      We present ongoing work to develop a virtual reality environment for the cognitive rehabilitation of patients as a part of their recovery from a stroke. A stroke causes damage to the brain and problem solving, memory and task sequencing are commonly affected. The brain can recover to some extent, however, and stroke patients have to relearn to carry out activities of daily learning. We have created an application called VIRTUE to enable such activities to be practiced using immersive virtual reality. Gamification techniques enhance the motivation of patients such as by making the level of difficulty of a task increase over time. The design and implementation of VIRTUE is presented together with the results of a small acceptability study.
    • Assisting Serious Games Level Design with an Augmented Reality Application and Workflow

      Beever, Lee; John, Nigel W.; Pop, Serban R.; University of Chester (Eurographics Proceedings, 2019-09-13)
      With the rise in popularity of serious games there is an increasing demand for virtual environments based on real-world locations. Emergency evacuation or fire safety training are prime examples of serious games that would benefit from accurate location depiction together with any application involving personal space. However, creating digital indoor models of real-world spaces is a difficult task and the results obtained by applying current techniques are often not suitable for use in real-time virtual environments. To address this problem, we have developed an application called LevelEd AR that makes indoor modelling accessible by utilizing consumer grade technology in the form of Apple’s ARKit and a smartphone. We compared our system to that of a tape measure and a system based on an infra-red depth sensor and application. We evaluated the accuracy and efficiency of each system over four different measuring tasks of increasing complexity. Our results suggest that our application is more accurate than the depth sensor system and as accurate and more time efficient as the tape measure over several tasks. Participants also showed a preference to our LevelEd AR application over the depth sensor system regarding usability. Finally, we carried out a preliminary case study that demonstrates how LevelEd AR can be successfully used as part of current industry workflows for serious games level design.
    • Evaluating LevelEd AR: An Indoor Modelling Application for Serious Games Level Design

      Beever, Lee; Pop, Serban R.; John, Nigel W.; University of Chester (IEEE Conference Publications, 2019-09-06)
      We developed an application that makes indoor modelling accessible by utilizing consumer grade technology in the form of Apple’s ARKit and a smartphone to assist with serious games level design. We compared our system to that of a tape measure and a system based on an infra-red depth sensor and application. We evaluated the accuracy and efficiency of each system over four different measuring tasks of increasing complexity. Our results suggest that our application is more accurate than the depth sensor system and as accurate and more time efficient as the tape measure over several tasks. Participants also showed a preference to our LevelEd AR application over the depth sensor system regarding usability.
    • Training Powered Wheelchair Manoeuvres in Mixed Reality

      Day, Thomas W.; John, Nigel W.; University of Chester (IEEE Xplore, 2019-09)
      We describe a mixed reality environment that has been designed as an aid for training driving skills for a powered wheelchair. Our motivation is to provide an improvement on a previous virtual reality wheelchair driving simulator, with a particular aim to remove any cybersickness effects. The results of a validation test are presented that involved 35 able bodied volunteers divided into three groups: mixed reality trained, virtual reality trained, and a control group. No significant differences in improvement was found between the groups but there is a notable trend that both the mixed reality and virtual reality groups improved more than the control group. Whereas the virtual reality group experienced discomfort (as measured using a simulator sickness questionnaire), the mixed reality group experienced no side effects.
    • Factors for successful Agile collaboration between UX designers and software developers in a complex organisation

      Avis, Nick; Kerins, John; Jones, Alexander J (University of Chester, 2019-07-23)
      User Centred Design (UCD) and Agile Software Development (ASD) processes have been two extremely successful methods for software development in recent years. However, both have been repeatedly described as frequently putting contradictory demands on people working with the respective processes. The current research addresses this point by focussing on the crucial relationship between a User Experience (UX) designer and a software developer. In-depth interviews, an online survey, a contextual inquiry and a diary study are described from a sample of over 100 designers, developers and their stakeholders (managers) in a large media organisation exploring factors for success in Agile development cycles. The findings from the survey show that organisational separation is challenge for agile collaboration between the two roles and while designers and developers have similar levels of (moderately positive) satisfaction with Agile processes, there are differences between the two roles. While developers are happier with the wider teamwork but want more access to and close collaboration with designers, particularly in an environment set up for Agile practices, the designers’ concern was the quality of the wider teamwork. The respondent’s comments also identified that the two roles saw a close – and ideally co-located – cooperation as essential for improving communication, reducing inefficiencies, and avoiding bad products being released. These results reflected the findings from the in-depth interviews with stakeholders. In particular, it was perceived that co-located pairing helped understanding different role-dependent demands and skills, increased efficiency of prototyping and implementing changes, and enabling localised decision-making. However, organisational processes, the setup of work-environment, and managerial traditions meant that this close collaboration and localised decision-making was often not possible to maintain over extended periods. Despite this, the studies conducted between pairs of designers and developers, found that successful collaboration between designers and developers can be found in a complex organisational setting. From the analysis of the empirical studies, six contributing factors emerged that support this. These factors are 1) Close proximity, 2) Early and frequent communication, 3) Shared ideation and problem solving, 4) Crossover of knowledge and skills, 5) Co-creation and prototyping and 6) Making joint decisions. These factors are crucially determined and empowered by the support from the organisational setting and 3 teams where practitioners work. Specifically, by overcoming key challenges to enable integration between UCD and ASD and thus encouraging close collaboration between UX designers and software developers, these challenges are: 1) Organisational structure and team culture, 2) Location and environmental setup and 3) Decision-making. These challenges along with the six factors that enable successful Agile collaboration between designers and developers provide the main contributions of this research. These contributions can be applied within large complex organisations by adopting the suggested ‘Paired Collaboration Manifesto’ to improve the integration between UCD and ASD. Beyond this, more empirical studies can take place, further extending improvements to the collaborative practices between the design and development roles and their surrounding teams.
    • Policing the Cyber Threat: Exploring the threat from Cyber Crime and the ability of local Law Enforcement to respond

      Eze, Thaddeus; Hull, Matthew; Speakman, Lee; University of Chester (Proceedings of the IEEE, 2019-07-01)
      The landscape in which UK policing operates today is a dynamic one, and growing threats such as the proliferation of cyber crime are increasing the demand on police resources. The response to cyber crime by national and regional law enforcement agencies has been robust, with significant investment in mitigating against, and tackling cyber threats. However, at a local level, police forces have to deal with an unknown demand, whilst trying to come to terms with new crime types, terminology and criminal techniques which are far from traditional. This paper looks to identify the demand from cyber crime in one police force in the United Kingdom, and whether there is consistency in the recording of crime. As well as this, it looks to understand whether the force can deal with cyber crime from the point of view of the Police Officers and Police Staff in the organisation.
    • Virtual and Mixed Reality Support for Activities of Daily Living

      John, Nigel; Day, Thomas W. (University of Chester, 2019-05-14)
      Rehabilitation and training are extremely important process that help people who have suffered some form of trauma to regain their ability to live independently and successfully complete activities of daily living. VR and MR have been used in rehabilitation and training, with examples in a range of areas such as physical and cognitive rehabilitation, and medical training. However, previous research has mainly used non-immersive VR such as using video games on a computer monitor or television. Immersive VR Head-Mounted Displays were first developed in 1965 but the devices were usually large, bulky and expensive. In 2016, the release of low-cost VR HMDs allowed for wider adoption of VR technology. This thesis investigates the impact of these devices in supporting activities of daily living through three novel applications: training driving skills for a powered wheelchair in both VR and MR; and using VR to help with the cognitive rehabilitation of stroke patients. Results from the acceptability study for VR in cognitive rehabilitation showed that patients would be likely to accept VR as a method of rehabilitation. However, factors such as visual issues need to be taken into consideration. The validation study for the Wheelchair-VR project showed promising results in terms of user improvement after the VR training session but the majority of the users experienced symptoms of cybersickness. Wheelchair-MR didn’t show statistically significant results in terms of improvements but did show a mean average improvement compared to the control group. The effects of cybersickness were also greatly reduced compared to VR. We conclude that VR and MR can be used in conjunction with modern games engines to develop virtual environments that can be adapted to accelerate the rehabilitation and training of patients coping with different aspects of daily life.
    • An overview of thermal necrosis: present and future

      Mediouni, M.; Kucklick, T.; Poncet, S.; Madiouni, R.; Abouaomar, A.; Madry, H.; Cucchiarini, M.; Chopko, B.; Vaughan, Neil; Arora, M.; et al. (Taylor & Francis, 2019-05-10)
      Introduction: Many orthopaedic procedures require drilling of bone, especially fracture repair cases. Bone drilling results in heat generation due to the friction between the bone and the drill bit. A high-level of heat generation kills bone cells. Bone cell death results in resorption of bone around bone screws. Materials and methods: We searched in the literature for data on parameters that influence drilling bone and could lead to thermal necrosis. The points of view of many orthopaedists and neurosurgeons based upon on previous practices and clinical experience are presented. Results: Several potential complications are discussed and highlighted that lead to thermal necrosis. Discussion: Even in the face of growing evidence as to the negative effects of heat-induction during drilling, simple and effective methods for monitoring and cooling in real-time are not in widespread usage today. For that purpose, we propose some suggestions for the future of bone drilling, taking note of recent advances in autonomous robotics, intelligent systems, and computer simulation techniques. Conclusions: These advances in prevention of thermal necrosis during bone drilling surgery are expected to reduce the risk of patient injury and costs for the health service.
    • VRIA - A Framework for Immersive Analytics on the Web

      Butcher, Peter; John, Nigel W.; Ritsos, Panagiotis D.; University of Chester and Bangor University (ACM, 2019-05)
      We report on the design, implementation and evaluation of <VRIA>, a framework for building immersive analytics (IA) solutions inWeb-based Virtual Reality (VR), built upon WebVR, A-Frame, React and D3. The recent emergence of affordable VR interfaces have reignited the interest of researchers and developers in exploring new, immersive ways to visualize data. In particular, the use of open-standards web-based technologies for implementing VR in a browser facilitates the ubiquitous and platform-independent adoption of IA systems. Moreover, such technologies work in synergy with established visualization libraries, through the HTML document object model (DOM). We discuss high-level features of <VRIA> and present a preliminary user experience evaluation of one of our use-cases.
    • Adapting Jake Knapp’s Design Sprint Approach for AR/VR Applications in Digital Heritage

      Southall, Helen; Marmion, Maeve; Davies, Andrew; University of Chester (Springer Nature, 2019-04-21)
      Modern digital devices offer huge potential for the delivery of engaging heritage experiences to visitors, offering a better visitor experience, higher visitor numbers, and opportunities for increased tourism income. However, all software development entails risk, including the risk of developing a product which few will want, or be able, to use. Identifying user experience priorities and problems at an early stage is therefore extremely important. This chapter describes work in progress on a shortened version of Jake Knapp’s Design Sprint approach, and its application to designing VR/AR solutions for a specific heritage case study.
    • Appearance Modeling of Living Human Tissues

      Maciel, Anderson; Meyer, Gary W.; John, Nigel W.; Walter, Marcelo; Nunes, Augusto L. P.; Baranoski, Gladimir V. G.; Federal Institute of Paraná, Londrina; Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; University of Minnesota; University of Chester; University of Waterloo (Wiley, 2019-02-27)
      The visual fidelity of realistic renderings in Computer Graphics depends fundamentally upon how we model the appearance of objects resulting from the interaction between light and matter reaching the eye. In this paper, we survey the research addressing appearance modeling of living human tissue. Among the many classes of natural materials already researched in Computer Graphics, living human tissues such as blood and skin have recently seen an increase in attention from graphics research. There is already an incipient but substantial body of literature on this topic, but we also lack a structured review as presented here. We introduce a classification for the approaches using the four types of human tissues as classifiers. We show a growing trend of solutions that use first principles from Physics and Biology as fundamental knowledge upon which the models are built. The organic quality of visual results provided by these Biophysical approaches is mainly determined by the optical properties of biophysical components interacting with light. Beyond just picture making, these models can be used in predictive simulations, with the potential for impact in many other areas.
    • Towards Organisational Learning Enhancement: Assessing Software Engineering Practice

      Fannoun, Sufian; Kerins, John; University of Chester (Emerald Publishing Limited, 2018-12-17)
      • Purpose – Issues surrounding knowledge management, knowledge transfer and learning within organisations challenge continuity and resilience in the face of changing environments. While initiatives are principally applied within large organisations, there is scope to assess how the processes are handled within small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to consider how they might be enhanced. This paper presents an evaluation of practice within an evolving software development unit to determine what has been learned and how the knowledge acquired has been utilised to further organisational development. These results provide the basis for the design and implementation of a proposed support tool to enhance professional practice. • Design/methodology/approach – A small software development unit, which has successfully delivered bespoke systems since its establishment a number of years ago, was selected for analysis. The unit operates as a team whose actions and behaviours were identified and validated by the following means: in-depth interviews were carried out with each member of the team to elicit an understanding of individual and collective development. Interview data were recorded and transcribed and subjected to qualitative analysis to identify key themes underpinning knowledge acquisition and utilisation. Samples of project documentation were scrutinised to corroborate interview data. After analysing the data, a focus-group meeting was held to validate the results and to generate further insights into learning within the team. • Findings - Qualitative analysis of the data revealed key changes in thinking and practice within the team as well as insight into the development of individual and collective contextual knowledge, tacit understanding and learning. This analysis informed the proposal of a bespoke, lightweight, web-based system to support knowledge capture and organisational learning (OL). This approach has the potential to promote resilience and to enhance practice in similar small or start-up enterprises. • Research limitations/implications – Purposeful sampling was used in selecting a small software development team. This enabled in-depth interviewing of all members of the team. This offered a rich environment from which to derive awareness and understanding of individual and collective knowledge acquisition and learning. Focusing on a single small enterprise limits the extent to which the findings can be generalised. However, the research provides evidence of effective practice and learning and has identified themes for the development of a support tool. This approach can be extended to similar domains to advance research into learning and development. • Practical implications – Results of the work undertaken so far have generated promising foundations for the proposed support tool. This offers software developers a system within which they can reflect upon, and record, key learning events affecting technical, managerial and professional practice. • Originality/value – Small enterprises have limited resources to support OL. The qualitative research undertaken so far has yielded valuable insight into the successful development of a single software development team. The construction of a support tool to enhance knowledge acquisition and learning has the capacity to consolidate valuable, and potentially scarce, expertise. It also has the potential to facilitate further research to determine how the prototype might be extended or revised to improve its contribution to the team’s development.
    • An Information-Theoretic Approach to the Cost-benefit Analysis of Visualization in Virtual Environments

      Chen, Min; Gaither, Kelly; John, Nigel W.; McCann, Brian; University of Oxford; University of Texas at Austin; University of Chester (IEEE, 2018-08-20)
      Visualization and virtual environments (VEs) have been two interconnected parallel strands in visual computing for decades. Some VEs have been purposely developed for visualization applications, while many visualization applications are exemplary showcases in general-purpose VEs. Because of the development and operation costs of VEs, the majority of visualization applications in practice have yet to benefit from the capacity of VEs. In this paper, we examine this status quo from an information-theoretic perspective. Our objectives are to conduct cost-benefit analysis on typical VE systems (including augmented and mixed reality, theatre-based systems, and large powerwalls), to explain why some visualization applications benefit more from VEs than others, and to sketch out pathways for the future development of visualization applications in VEs. We support our theoretical propositions and analysis using theories and discoveries in the literature of cognitive sciences and the practical evidence reported in the literatures of visualization and VEs.
    • Exploration and Implementation of Augmented Reality for External Beam Radiotherapy

      John, Nigel W.; Vaarkamp, Jaap; Cosentino, Francesco (University of Chester, 2018-07-17)
      We have explored applications of Augmented Reality (AR) for external beam radiotherapy to assist with treatment planning, patient education, and treatment delivery. We created an AR development framework for applications in radiotherapy (RADiotherapy Augmented Reality, RAD-AR) for AR ready consumer electronics such as tablet computers and head mounted devices (HMD). We implemented in RAD-AR three tools to assist radiotherapy practitioners with: treatment plans evaluation, patient pre-treatment information/education, and treatment delivery. We estimated accuracy and precision of the patient setup tool and the underlying self-tracking technology, and fidelity of AR content geometric representation, on the Apple iPad tablet computer and the Microsoft HoloLens HMD. Results showed that the technology could already be applied for detection of large treatment setup errors, and could become applicable to other aspects of treatment delivery subject to technological improvements that can be expected in the near future. We performed user feedback studies of the patient education and the plan evaluation tools. Results indicated an overall positive user evaluation of AR technology compared to conventional tools for the radiotherapy elements implemented. We conclude that AR will become a useful tool in radiotherapy bringing real benefits for both clinicians and patients, contributing to successful treatment outcomes.
    • Evolution of Neural Networks for Physically Simulated Evolved Virtual Quadruped Creatures

      Vaughan, Neil; Royal Academy of Engineering; University of Chester (Springer-Verlag, 2018-07-07)
      This work develops evolved virtual creatures (EVCs) using neuroevolution as the controller for movement and decisions within a 3D physics simulated environ-ment. Previous work on EVCs has displayed various behaviour such as following a light source. This work is focused on complexifying the range of behaviours available to EVCs. This work uses neuroevolution for learning specific actions combined with other controllers for making higher level decisions about which action to take in a given scenario. Results include analysis of performance of the EVCs in simulated physics environment. Various controllers are compared including a hard coded benchmark, a fixed topology feed forward artificial neural network and an evolving ANN subjected to neuroevolution by applying mutations in both topology and weights. The findings showed that both fixed topology ANNs and neuroevolution did successfully control the evolved virtual creatures in the distance travelling task.
    • Evolutionary Robot Swarm Cooperative Retrieval

      Vaughan, Neil; Royal Academy of Engineering; University of Chester (Springer, 2018-07-07)
      In nature bees and leaf-cutter ants communicate to improve cooperation during food retrieval. This research aims to model communication in a swarm of auton-omous robots. When food is identified robot communication is emitted within a limited range. Other robots within the range receive the communication and learn of the location and size of the food source. The simulation revealed that commu-nication improved the rate of cooperative food retrieval tasks. However a counter-productive chain reaction can occur when robots repeat communications from other robots causing cooperation errors. This can lead to a large number of robots travelling towards the same food source at the same time. The food becomes de-pleted, before some robots have arrived. Several robots continue to communicate food presence, before arriving at the food source to find it gone. Nature-inspired communication can enhance swarm behaviour without requiring a central control-ler and may be useful in autonomous drones or vehicles.
    • Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning for Swarm Retrieval with Evolving Neural Network

      Vaughan, Neil; Royal Academy of Engineering; University of Chester (Springer-Verlag,, 2018-07-07)
      This research investigates methods for evolving swarm communica-tion in a sim-ulated colony of ants using pheromone when foriaging for food. This research implemented neuroevolution and obtained the capability to learn phero-mone communication autonomously. Building on previous literature on phero-mone communication, this research applies evolution to adjust the topology and weights of an artificial neural network (ANN) which controls the ant behaviour. Compar-ison of performance is made between a hard-coded benchmark algorithm (BM1), a fixed topology ANN and neuroevolution of the ANN topology and weights. The resulting neuroevolution produced a neural network which was suc-cessfully evolved to achieve the task objective, to collect food and return it to a location.
    • Colour Coded Emotion Classification in Mental Health Social Media

      Vaughan, Neil; Mulvenna, Maurice; Bond, Raymond; Royal Academy of Engineering; University of Chester (BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, ACM Proceedings, 2018-07-06)
      This research applies emotion detection to messages from online mental health social media. In particular, this focusses on specialised social media for users to report health or mental health problems. Automatically detecting the emotion in social media can help to rapidly identify any concerning problems which could benefit from intervention aiming to prevent self-harming or suicide. Detecting emotions enables messages to be colour coordinated according to the emotion to enhance the human-computer interaction. A supervised classification method is applied to a labelled dataset and results presented. A prototype user interface system is developed based on detecting emotion, colour coding the message to display detected emotions to users in real-time.