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Version: 0.91.0

Hello Scalismo!

The goal in this tutorial is to present the most important data structures, as well as the visualization capabilities of Scalismo.

The following resources from our online course may provide some helpful context for this tutorial:

To run the code from this tutorial, download the following Scala file:

Imports and Scalismo initialization

Before we start with writing actual Scalismo code, we import all objects from the Scalismo library, which we will need in this tutorial.

// Basic geometric primitives
import scalismo.geometry.{_3D, Point, Point3D}
import scalismo.geometry.{EuclideanVector}
import scalismo.geometry.{IntVector, IntVector3D}
import scalismo.geometry.Landmark

import scalismo.common.PointId

// Geometric objects
import scalismo.mesh.TriangleMesh
import scalismo.mesh.TriangleId
import scalismo.image.{DiscreteImage, DiscreteImage3D}
import scalismo.statisticalmodel.PointDistributionModel

// IO Methods
import{MeshIO, StatisticalModelIO}

// Visualization
import scalismo.ui.api.ScalismoUI
import scalismo.ui.api.LandmarkView

Before we can start working with Scalismo objects, we need to initialize Scalismo.

implicit val rng: scalismo.utils.Random = scalismo.utils.Random(42)

The call to scalismo.initialize loads all the dependencies to native C++ libraries (such as e.g. vtk or hdf5). The second call tells scalismo, which source of randomness to use and at the same time seeds the random number generator appropriately.

Later on we would like to visualize the objects we create. This is done using Scalismo-ui - the visualization library accompanying scalismo. We can load an instance of the GUI, which we name here simply ui as follows:

val ui = ScalismoUI()

Meshes (surface data)

The first fundamental data structure we discuss is the triangle mesh, which is defined in the package scalismo.mesh. Meshes can be read from a file using the method readMesh from the MeshIO:

val mesh: TriangleMesh[_3D] = MeshIO.readMesh(new"datasets/Paola.ply")).get

To visualize any object in Scalismo, we can use the show method of the ui object. We often want to organize different visualizations of an object in a group. We start directly with this practice and first create a new group, to which we then add the visualization of the mesh:

val paolaGroup = ui.createGroup("paola")
val meshView =, mesh, "Paola")

Now that the mesh is displayed in the "Scalismo Viewer's 3D view", you can interact with it as follows:

  • to rotate: maintain the left mouse button clicked and drag
  • to shift/translate: maintain the middle mouse button clicked and drag
  • to scale: maintain the right mouse button clicked and drag up or down

Note: if you are a Mac user, please find out how to emulate these events using your mouse or trackpad Note also that you can use the RC, X, Y and Z buttons in the 3D view to recenter the camera on the displayed object.

Anatomy of a Triangle mesh

A 3D triangle mesh in scalismo consists of a pointSet, which maintains a collection of 3D points and a list of triangle cells. We can access individual points using their point id. Here we show how we can access the first point in the mesh:

println("first point " + mesh.pointSet.point(PointId(0)))

Similarly, we can access the first triangles as follows:

println("first cell " + mesh.triangulation.triangle(TriangleId(0)))

The first cell is a triangle between the first, second and third points of the mesh. Notice here that the cell indicates the identifiers of the points (their index in the point sequence) instead of the geometric position of the points.

Instead of visualizing the mesh, we can also display the points forming the mesh.

val pointCloudView =, mesh.pointSet, "pointCloud")

This should add a new point cloud element to the scene with the name "pointCloud".

Note: depending on your computer, visualizing the full point cloud may slow down the visualization performance.

Note that to clean up the 3D scene, you can delete the objects either from the user interface (by right-clicking on the object's name), or programmatically by calling remove on the corresponding view object :


Points and Vectors

We are very often interested in modelling transformations of point sets. Therefore we need to learn how to manipulate point positions. The two fundamental classes in this context are Point and EuclideanVector:

We define points by specifying their coordinates:

val p1: Point[_3D] = Point3D(4.0, 5.0, 6.0)
val p2: Point[_3D] = Point3D(1.0, 2.0, 3.0)

The difference between two points is a EuclideanVector

val v1: EuclideanVector[_3D] = Point3D(4.0, 5.0, 6.0) - Point3D(1.0, 2.0, 3.0)

The sum of a point with a vector yields a new point:

val p3: Point[_3D] = p1 + v1

Points can be converted to vectors:

val v2: EuclideanVector[_3D] = p1.toVector

and vice versa:

val v3: Point[_3D] = v1.toPoint

*Remark: Observe that the type of the expression is a parametric type Point[_3D], where the type parameter _3D encodes the dimensionality. The following pattern holds throughout Scalismo. In the object constructor, the dimesionality is given as part of the name (such as Point3D, TriangleMesh3D). The corresponding Type that is returned, is the parametric type (such as Point[_3D] or TriangleMesh[_3D]). This pattern allows us to write generic code, which is independent of the dimensionality in which the objects live.

We put these concepts in practice, and illustrate how we can compute the center of mass, given a sequence of points:

val pointList = Seq(
Point3D(4.0, 5.0, 6.0),
Point3D(1.0, 2.0, 3.0),
Point3D(14.0, 15.0, 16.0),
Point3D(7.0, 8.0, 9.0),
Point3D(10.0, 11.0, 12.0)

In a first step, we treat all the points as displacement vectors (the displacement of the points from the origin)

val vectors = { (p: Point[_3D]) => p.toVector } // use map to turn points into vectors

The average displacement can be easily computed by averaging all the vectors.

val vectorSum = vectors.reduce { (v1, v2) => v1 + v2 } // sum up all vectors in the collection
val centerV: EuclideanVector[_3D] = vectorSum * (1.0 / pointList.length) // divide the sum by the number of points

And finally we treat the average displacement again as a point in space.

val center = centerV.toPoint

Scalar Images

The next important data structure is the (scalar-) image. A discrete scalar image (e.g. gray level image) in Scalismo is simply a function from a discrete domain of points to a scalar value.

Let's read and display a 3D image (MRI of a human):

val image: DiscreteImage[_3D, Short] = ImageIO.read3DScalarImage[Short](new"datasets/PaolaMRI.vtk")).get
val imageView =, image, "mri")

Note: depending on your view on the scene, it could appear as if the image is not displayed. In this case, make sure to rotate the scene and change the position of the slices as indicated below.

To visualize the different image slices in the viewer, select "Scene" (the upper node in the scene tree graph) and use the X,Y,Z sliders.

You can also change the way of visualizing the 3D scene under the

View -> Perspective menu.

Scalar Image domain

Let's inspect the domain of the image :

val origin: Point[_3D] = image.domain.origin
val spacing: EuclideanVector[_3D] = image.domain.spacing
val size: IntVector[_3D] = image.domain.size

The discrete image domain is a 3-dimensional regular grid of points originating at point (92.5485, -121.926, 135.267), with regular spacing of 1.5 mm in each dimension and containing 171, 171, 139 grid slots in the x, y and z directions respectively.

To better see this, let's display the first 172 points of the image domain

val imagePoints: Iterator[Point[_3D]] = image.domain.pointSet.points.take(172)
val gridPointsView =, imagePoints.toIndexedSeq, "imagePoints")

Scalar image values

The other important part of a discrete image are the values associated with the domain points

val values : Iterator[Short] = image.values

This is an iterator of scalar values of type Short as encoded in the read image.

Let's check the first value, which is the value associated with the origin :

The point origin corresponds to the grid point with index (0,0,0). Hence, the same value can be obtained by accessing the image at this index :


Naturally, the number of scalar values should be equal to the number of points

image.values.size == image.domain.pointSet.numberOfPoints

Notice that you can check the intensity value at a particular point position in the image, by maintaining the Ctrl key pressed and hovering over the image. The intensity value will then be displayed in the lower left corner of the Scalismo viewer window.

Creating scalar images

Given that discrete scalar images are a mapping between points and values, we can easily create such images programmatically.

Here we create a new image defined on the same domain of points with artificially created values: We threshold an MRI image, where all the values above 300 are replaced with 0.

val threshValues = { (v: Short) => if (v <= 300) v else 0.toShort }
val thresholdedImage: DiscreteImage[_3D, Short] = DiscreteImage3D[Short](image.domain, threshValues.toIndexedSeq)
ui show(paolaGroup, thresholdedImage, "thresh")

Note: We need to write 0.toShort or 0 : Short in order to ensure that the threshValues have type Short and not Int.

There is, however, also a more elegant way to write above code, namely using the map method. The map method applies an operation to all values. Using this method, we can write instead

val thresholdedImage2 = => if (v <= 300) v else 0.toShort)

Statistical Mesh Models

Finally, we look at Statistical Shape Models.

Statistical models can be read by calling readStatisticalMeshModel

val faceModel: PointDistributionModel[_3D, TriangleMesh] = StatisticalModelIO.readStatisticalTriangleMeshModel3D(new"datasets/bfm.h5")).get
val faceModelView =, "faceModel")

Sampling in the UI

Exercise: Sample random instances of faces by using the graphical tools in the scene pane : click on the "model" tree node and then the "Random" button

Exercise: click a landmark on a position of the face model, e.g. chin or eye corner.. (use the toggle button "LM" in the toolbar to activate landmark clicking). Rename this landmark and call it noseLM. Now continue sampling from the model. What happens to the selected point?

As you can see, a new instance of the face model is displayed each time along with the corresponding landmark point. Notice how the position of the landmark point changes in space while it keeps the same "meaning" on the face (eye corner, tip of nose ..)

Sampling programmatically

Sampling in the ui is useful for getting a visual impression of the variability of a model. But more often we want to sample from a model programmatically. We can obtain a sample from the model, by calling the sample method:

val randomFace: TriangleMesh[_3D] = faceModel.sample()

Exercise: Visualize a few randomly generated meshes in the ui.

Retrieving objects from Scalismo-ui

This is a good point to show how objects that we added manually in Scalismo-ui can be retrieved programmatically. A typical example is, that we manually clicked a landmark, such as our noseLM, on one of the visualized objects and would like to work with them in our programs. To achieve this we can use the filter method of the ui object. It works as follows:

val matchingLandmarkViews : Seq[LandmarkView] = ui.filter[LandmarkView](paolaGroup, (l : LandmarkView) => == "noseLM")
val matchingLandmarks : Seq[Landmark[_3D]] = => lmView.landmark)

The filter method is very general. The type parameter (the parameter inside []) indicates the type of view object we want to search for. Here we look only for landmarks, and consequently specify the type LandmarkView. As a first we pass the group, in which we want to search for an object. The second argument is a predicate, which is executed for all objects in the group, of the right type. Here we specify, that filter should match all objects whose name equals "noseLM". Calling the filter method results in a sequence of view objects, which match the predicate. To get the matching scalismo object, we call the method landmark on the view object. We can do this for all landmark view objects in the sequence using the familiar map function.

Finally, we can get the id and position of the matched landmark as follows:

val landmarkId : String =
val landmarkPosition : Point[_3D] = matchingLandmarks.head.point

Remark: In exactly the same way we can retrieve all other types of objects, which we can visualize in in Scalismo-ui, such as images, meshes, pointClouds, etc.