New 3D interactive software unravels ‘fabric of life’

Dynamic new interactive technology which visualises the 3D structures inside DNA has been launched by a team of computational artists, game developers and scientists, working together to help the public better understand the cause of diseases.

CSynth is a software platform created by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London and Oxford University. Described by its designers as ‘bio-visualisation made interactive’, it shows how cell machinery physically interacts with a structure as complex and compact as the genome.

Viewers can watch and explore the 3D models on a screen, or use a Virtual Reality headset to immerse themselves in genetic material and manipulate it themselves.

Traditionally, scientists have only been able to visualise and understand the genome – the complete set of genetic material present in a cell – in 2D presentations, on a screen or through graphs or histograms.

But as researchers gather more data about how cells work it is clear that a 3D structure is extremely important for gene regulation and how cells differentiate. For example, a white blood cell looks and behaves differently to a red blood cell even though its genome is exactly the same.

Subtle differences in the way the genome is folded can impact on whether genes can be switched on and off at particular times, which then dictates what a cell can do. Changes in the way chromatin is folded can cause rare blood diseases, for example, because it impacts on how genetic code is read by a cell.

Understanding this process is vital for seeking the cause of diseases such as diabetes or anaemia, and for the development of treatments for them.

Thanks to advances in genetic techniques, researchers are able to harness more information than ever before from biological data provided by patients and volunteers.

The CSynth software then integrates data from genome sequencing and computer modelling and presents it in an attractive and engaging way, using computer game technology.

The team have launched a complete software package that will also allow the import of public data, and help both the public and medical researchers gain a better understanding of how the genome is folded in a cell, and the complex mechanisms involved.

Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie and Professor William Latham from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths are the computer artists and software designers behind CSynth, working with Steve Taylor, Head of Analysis, Visualisation and Informatics at the WIMM Centre of Computational Biology, and Professor Jim Hughes at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. They are joined by Professor Stephen Todd, lead software architect at London Geometry Ltd and Visiting Professor in Computing at Goldsmiths, and Peter Todd, senior developer, London Geometry Ltd.

Steve Taylor said: “We have made a web-based interface where any researcher can load in the data from their experiments. Previously the software had to be installed and all the parameters were adjusted in text files by us behind the scenes. Now you can upload or drag and drop the data into a web page, and it will build a model allowing investigators to really get a handle on their data. You also get a fantastic user interface to interact with the model and overlay other data, such as genes and enhancers. We get asked a lot about making CSynth available for teaching and and now we can do this easily.”

Professor Fol Leymarie said: “Our body is made of trillions of cells, each one containing chromatin tightly folded. This very long molecular strand is not static, but rather keeps moving, vibrating, unfolding and refolding locally, more like a molecular dance.

“Furthermore, it keeps interacting with other molecular structures present in the cell and with itself. It is this dynamic nature that CSynth makes visible and interactive, so that a user – a researcher, student or even a curious member of the public – can load different data sequences, try out various parameters, compare various situations, to eventually get a much better, intuitive understanding, which we hope may help lead to new discoveries.”

Visit www.csynth.org or read the paper CSynth: A Dynamic Modelling and Visualisation Tool for 3D Chromatin Structure on the open access bioRxiv platform for more information.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News

Sign language glove wins Santander award

A smart glove designed by a Goldsmiths, University of London student has received a top prize at Santander’s annual ceremony for student entrepreneurs.

BrightSign Glove, which translates hand gestures into speech and text, won the People’s Choice audience vote at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards.

Hadeel Ayoub, PhD candidate in the Department of Computing, began developing the glove four years ago during her MA Computational Arts at Goldsmiths, and has since attracted international media attention and a raft of technology awards.

The glove is equipped with multiple sensors and machine learning software to enable individuals who use sign language as their primary language to communicate through text or digital voice directly, without the need for a translator.

BrightSign Glove was voted by the audience at the Santander awards event as having the greatest social, community, and environmental impact, and won a prize of £7,500.

Goldsmiths MA Social Entrepreneurship student Jack O’Donoghue from the Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship was a runner up, having reached the Santander finals with his project ‘Of The Ilk’ – an organic cotton-based re-usable food wrapping developed as an alternative to cling-film.

Hadeel and her development team aim to make BrightSign available to everyone who needs it, at an accessible price. The product is still in development, and eagerly awaited by a fast-growing list of schools and parents. With 70 million sign language users globally, and 90% of deaf children being born to hearing parents, the glove has the potential to revolutionise communication across barriers.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship winners were announced by Nathan Bostock, CEO of Santander UK, and received their awards from Ana Botín, Group Executive Chair, Santander Group.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News

Simon Katan’s ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse

Head of Creative Computing, Simon Katan writes about the premier of his work ‘Clamour’ at the Roundhouse in Camden

Last Thursday my work Clamour premiered at the Roundhouse Camden’s Sackler Space. The work is an interactive mixed media theatre performance for live coder which is experienced simultaneously through audience smartphones, projection and sound. The aim is to wryly and reflexively interrogate how technology and social media mediate and influence our knowledge, relationships, and identities. 

 

The piece tells the story of Sealand – a lone outpost surrounded by vast swathes of ocean – the sole surviving nation of global catastrophe. Now faced with an existential fight for its future, its people must forge the tools they require. New rules must be written, paving the way for a new state of being. With their resourcefulness and through working together what could go wrong? Throughout the performance, an inscrutable figure on stage (that’s me) controls all from their laptop – shaping divergent audience experiences with heuristic games that charm, frustrate and deceive. Yet it is the audience themselves, through gameplay with image, sound, and text, who determine the shape of the final performance.

 

I’ve been working on elements of the piece through various commissions over the last five years, and for this final stage I collaborated with digital artist Luke Fraser to bring everything together. Our development process involved numerous user testing sessions with Goldsmiths computing students to fine tune our interaction.

 

After a nerve wracking 15 minutes of dealing with the usual Wifi difficulties, the performance got underway. In such a performance it’s difficult to gauge reactions but a sprinkling of chuckles throughout gave me a good indication that things were progressing to plan. Read a review here http://www.savageonline.co.uk/our-journal/clamour/

 

A programme of regional touring is planned for Spring and Summer of 2019. You can find out more at clamour.org.uk.

Student invents fabric circuit boards as tech teaching aids

Elisabetta Motta

A third year student from Goldsmiths Computing has developed a unique felt circuit board to enable primary school children to learn about electronics.

The project, ‘Felt-e’, was created by BSc Creative Computing student Elisabetta Motta as a potential new resource for teaching physical computing to children.

She said: “My research into primary schools found that teachers in computing lessons often lack the resources and time to enthuse young boys and girls about the subject. Felt-e provides a unique, hands on experience for kids and allows them to be creative while learning about electronics. It’s also a resource that’s easy to understand for teachers who might be unfamiliar with computing.”

Elisabetta, 28, surveyed a number of teachers during her initial research, exploring the frustrations of many Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers around lack of computing knowledge and pressures to prioritise literacy and mathematics.

Common feedback included a difficulty keeping pupils focused and lack of resources to run hands-on activities, which inspired the design of the Felt-e board.

Similarly laid out to a breadboard – a commonly used electronic tool which allows the user to lay out components – Felt-e includes two bus strips and ten terminal strips. Each strip has metallic poppers, to which the user can connect ‘wires’ and other components.

The longer wires have one popper on one end to connect to the board, and a crocodile clip on the other end to connect to the micro controller. The shorter wires have poppers on each end so connect points on the board.

Components are made from white felt with drawings of the relevant electronic symbol on one side and positive and negative signs on each end (if relevant to the component). The circuit is also compatible with micro controllers including the BBC micro:bit.



This post was adapted from an article by Chris Smith published on Goldsmiths News.

Generation 2018! Undergraduate Computing degree show

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Thursday 7 June sees our annual celebration of achievement by undergraduate students from across the department.

A mash-up of exhibition, show-and-tell, performance and academic conference, GENERATION is a showcase of outstanding computing projects realised by undergraduates in 2017-18. It’s an exhibition for anyone who’s interested in how digital technology and computer science is impacting on health, education, business and entertainment.

This year we have a lots of computer games, as well as virtual reality experiences, augmented reality apps, interactive thingamajigs and technologies for art, music, education, business and healthcare.

generation2018

Opens: 1pm-5pm Thursday 7 June
Bar & performances: 5pm-9pm Thursday 7 June

Goldsmiths Student Union Bar
Dixon Road, Goldsmiths, University of London

GENERATION website

Goldsmiths’ MIMIC project: ‘Cyborg’ musicians could be the future of music

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Massive Attack at Weekendance 2007 in Barcelona. Photo: Alterna2

Musicians will be able to use Artificial Intelligence to create new music and sound to share or sell, thanks to a project led by Goldsmiths.

At a time when many in the music industry worry their livelihoods are under threat from new technology, the MIMIC (Musically Intelligent Machines Interacting Creatively) project puts humans back in control of making music.

MIMIC will develop free, user-friendly web tools that harness the power of AI to listen to existing recordings and come up with new sounds and instruments interactively. Artists will own the sounds they create and can incorporate them into their music or sell them to others. The tools will meld the latest ‘deep learning’ AI methods with people’s creativity to empower a new generation of ‘cyborg’ musicians.

The £1m project is a collaboration between Goldsmiths, the University of Durham, the University of Sussex, and Google Magenta and has been funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Mick Grierson, Professor of Computing at Goldsmiths and MIMIC project leader said: “In the past, to use these powerful Artificial Intelligence technologies you had to be an expert in programming: we want to make these technologies free and easy for anyone to use – from amateur music-makers and sonic experimenters to professional musicians.

“Rather than simply creating autonomous musical ‘robots’, we are harnessing Artificial Intelligence systems to augment human creativity. We’re inviting people to meld their musical talents and sonic curiosity to the very latest deep learning systems. Our interfaces will mean you don’t have to already know how to code to benefit from AI, you just have to want to make some noise. However, if you do want to code, you’ll be able to do so using a new language we will be creating specifically for making AI music systems.”

The AI technology powering MIMIC has already proved a hit with professional musicians: Massive Attack are currently using it to create new musical instruments for the upcoming tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their Mezzanine album. Back in 2016, Sigur Ros used a similar system built by Grierson to create an evolving version of a single song for a 24-hour televised journey around the Icelandic coast. Now the Goldsmiths-led team wants to make these technologies accessible to anyone with an interest in musical creation and exploration.

The MIMIC team aim to upload the first prototype web tools for people to experiment with within the next year. The tools will use a browser-based simplified live coding language written on top of JavaScript specially designed for musicians and artists. As well as working with the music industry, the team plan to produce learning materials for university, secondary school, and professional learners introducing them to how they can enhance their creativity with AI systems.


 

This post, written by Pete Wilton, was originally published on Goldsmiths News

BSc Digital Arts Computing degree show

Exit Strategy from Goldsmiths Computing on Vimeo.

The degree show for BSc Digital Arts Computing launches on Thursday 3 May.

Titled EXIT STRATEGY, the exhibition features over 30 computational artists, using digital technologies to create works on surveillance, artificial intelligence, art theory and the end of humanity.

Artworks include cliquey robots, a VR gallery, life stories from the Soviet era, haptic devices simulating human touch, sonified data, and a toddler exposed to the internet.

The exhibition launches with the ever-popular opening night party, 5.30pm-9.30pm Thursday 3 May 2018, with guests from across the world of art, curating and digital practice. Get free tickets for the party

EXIT STRATEGY continues from Friday 4 until Monday 7 May, 12noon – 5pm each day.


EVENT: Digital Art’s Exit Strategies
3pm – 4.30pm Saturday 5 May
We invite artists, theorists and curators Suhail Malik, Ami Clarke and Bob Bicknell-Knight to respond to the exhibition and propose art and curatorial strategies for exits. Open to all.