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Version: 0.91.0

From meshes to deformation fields

In this tutorial, we show how the deformation fields that relate two meshes can be computed and visualized.

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

  • Modelling Shape Deformations (Video)

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


As in the previous tutorials, we start by importing some commonly used objects and initializing the system.

import scalismo.geometry._
import scalismo.common._
import scalismo.transformations._
import scalismo.mesh.TriangleMesh
import scalismo.common.interpolation._
import scalismo.common.interpolation.TriangleMeshInterpolator3D
import scalismo.ui.api._
implicit val rng: scalismo.utils.Random = scalismo.utils.Random(42)

val ui = ScalismoUI()

We will also load three meshes and visualize them in Scalismo-ui.


val dsGroup = ui.createGroup("datasets")

val meshFiles = new"datasets/testFaces/").listFiles.take(3)
val (meshes, meshViews) = => {
val mesh = MeshIO.readMesh(meshFile).get
val meshView =, mesh, "mesh")
(mesh, meshView) // return a tuple of the mesh and the associated view
}).unzip // take the tuples apart, to get a sequence of meshes and one of meshViews

Representing meshes as deformations

In the following we show how we can represent a mesh as a reference mesh plus a deformation field. This is possible because the meshes are all in correspondence; I.e. they all have the same number of points and points with the same id in the meshes represent the same point/region in the mesh.

Let's say face_0, is the reference mesh:

val reference = meshes.head // face_0 is our reference

Now any mesh, which is in correspondence with this reference, can be represented as a deformation field. The deformation field is defined on this reference mesh; I.e. the points of the reference mesh are the domain on which the deformation field is defined.

The deformations can be computed by taking the difference between the corresponding point of the mesh and the reference:

val deformations : IndexedSeq[EuclideanVector[_3D]] = {
id => meshes(1).pointSet.point(id) - reference.pointSet.point(id)

From these deformations, we can then create a DiscreteVectorField:

val deformationField: DiscreteField[_3D, TriangleMesh, EuclideanVector[_3D]] = DiscreteField3D(reference, deformations)

As for images, the deformation vector associated with a particular point id in a DiscreteVectorField can be retrieved via its point id:


We can visualize this deformation field in Scalismo-ui using the usual show command:

val deformationFieldView =, deformationField, "deformations")

We can see that the deformation vectors indeed point from the reference to face_1. To see the effect better we need to remove face2 from the ui, make the reference transparent

meshViews(0).opacity = 0.3

Exercise: generate the rest of the deformation fields that represent the rest of the faces in the dataset and display them.

Deformation fields over continuous domains:

The deformation field that we computed above is discrete as it is defined only over the mesh points. Since the real-world objects that we model are continuous, and the discretization of our meshes is rather arbitrary, this is not ideal. In Scalismo we usually prefer to work with continuous domains. Whenever we have an object in Scalismo, which is defined on a discrete domain, we can obtain a continuous representation, by means of interpolation.

To turn our deformation field into a continuous deformation field, we need to define an Interpolator and call the interpolate method:

val interpolator = TriangleMeshInterpolator3D[EuclideanVector[_3D]]()
val continuousDeformationField : Field[_3D, EuclideanVector[_3D]] = deformationField.interpolate(interpolator)

The TriangleMeshInterpolator that we use here finds interpolates by finding for each point in the Euclidean space the closest point on the surface and uses the corresponding deformation as the deformation at the given point. The point on the surface is in turn obtained by barycentric interpolation of the corresponding vertex points. As a result of the interpolation, we obtain a deformation field over the entire real space, which can be evaluated at any 3D Point:


Remark: This approach is general: Any discrete object in Scalismo can be interpolated. If we don't know anything about the structure of the domain, we can use the NearestNeighborInterpolator. For most domain, however, more specialised interpolators are defined. To interpolate an image for example, we can use efficient linear or b-spline interpolation schemes.

The mean deformation and the mean mesh

Given a set of meshes, we are often interested to compute mesh that represents the mean shape. This is equivalent to computing the mean deformation u\overline{u}, and to apply this deformation to them mean mesh.

To compute the mean deformation, we compute for each point in our mesh the sample mean of the deformations at this point in the deformation fields:

val nMeshes = meshes.length

val meanDeformations = id => {

var meanDeformationForId = EuclideanVector3D(0, 0, 0)

val meanDeformations = meshes.foreach (mesh => { // loop through meshes
val deformationAtId = mesh.pointSet.point(id) - reference.pointSet.point(id)
meanDeformationForId += deformationAtId * (1.0 / nMeshes)


val meanDeformationField = DiscreteField3D(reference, meanDeformations.toIndexedSeq)

We can now apply the deformation to every point of the reference mesh, to obtain the mean mesh. To do this, the easiest way is to first genenerate a transformation from the deformation field, which we can use to map every point of the reference to its mean:

val continuousMeanDeformationField = meanDeformationField.interpolate(TriangleMeshInterpolator3D())

val meanTransformation = Transformation((pt : Point[_3D]) => pt + continuousMeanDeformationField(pt))

To obtain the mean mesh, we simply apply this transformation to the reference mesh:

val meanMesh = reference.transform(meanTransformation)

Finally, we display the result:, meanMesh, "mean mesh")