BioMatch: the project winning the Austrian Imagine Cup finals

In the last few months I was involved in a small team (Alex Duggleby - University of Economy Vienna, Marlies Oeltze, Stefan Braito - both University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna and Christian Liensberger - University of Technology, Vienna) that was creating an application to participate at the Austrian software design finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.

And we won!

Our project is named BioMatch and the idea is to understand how plants (and animals) life together. For example, we want to understand what happens if you add a plant to a habitat (which is a region where plants life); how is that plant going to interact with the others? Is it going to survive, is it even going to spread and/or kill other plants?

To address that problem we have created a viewer that allows the scientist to see how the plants interact with each other and if a plant would survive when being added to a cretain location in the habitat:

This is a very important feature because until now the only way to understand the interaction between plants is to consult big databases with little or even no visualization. Therefore it is very difficult (even for the experts) to understand how plants or animals would life together if put into the same habitat. There are a lot examples where people added new animals or plants to a region (take for example Australia) and where that addition had a big impact; meaning that certain animals/plants completely disappeared from that region.

Another feature that our application provides is a visualization that allows the user to understand how similar plants are. We implemented a self-organizing map that analyzes the plants (we are currently at 2000+ plants, with 300 attributes for each), finds similarities, and displays the results:

The application is primarely aimed at scientists but can also be of great value for biology students (or interested people in general) who want to understand how small changes influence the whole region.

Also, the idea is to bring the extinction of species more into the main stream medias because with the current complex databases it’s quite impossible to understand how changing certain conditions will influence the fauna and flora of the whole world.

Edit: the Austrian Imagine Cup finals’ pictures are now online.

Published on May 24th, 2008 — Tags: ,
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