ITK/VTK Get Popular in China

October 9, 2012

The Insight Segmentation and Registration Toolkit (ITK) and the Visualization Toolkit (VTK) both have a wide range of applications in medical imaging and geological explorations all over the world. Recently, Professor Yang and his students from Beijing Institute of Technology conducted an interesting survey of the usage of ITK and VTK in China, in terms of publications and web forums among universities and research institutions.

ITK/VTK Publications
Here are some statistics about the number of publications that used ITK/VTK libraries in their research work.

 Figure 1. ITK/VTK publications in China ( 2000 ~ 2011)


Chinese researchers and engineers began to use ITK and VTK libraries in 2001, and the number gradually increased to more than 100 papers published in various journals each year since 2007. The top three research fields in China that are heavily adopting ITK/VTK libraries are: medical Imaging, geological exploration, industrial manufacturing, and aerospace science.

Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Zhejiang University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Southern Medical University, Fourth Military Medical University, Chongqing University, Hefei Industrial University, and Shanghai Jiao tong University have conducted extensive research using ITK and VTK in the field of medical imaging.

Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, Geological Surveying and Mapping Institute, Chinese University of Mining and Technology, Wuhan Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, Henan Polytechnic University, Chengdu University of Technology, and Nanjing Normal University lead China’s ITK and VTK usage in the field of geological exploration.

Huazhong University of Science and Zhejiang University have launched a number of research projects in the field of industrial manufacturing based on ITK/VTK libraries.

Nanjing University of Aeronautics Air University, Beijing University of Aeronautics, and Northwestern Polytechnical University have conducted research projects with ITK and VTK in aerospace science.


Figure 2: Top Chinese universities adopting ITK/VTK in their research


ITK/VTK Online Forums
According to the number of registered members of  the Chinese  Visualization Laboratory Forum (the most active forum for ITK/VTK in China), the overall national number of ITK and VTK users is about 12,000 and 20,000 respectively.  There are  four forums  for discussing and exchanging  information. Several major download websites such as  CSDN, Sina love to ask, Pudn etc, and  a couple of personal blogs and QQ groups are also providing ITK/VTK resources.    

The  forums and web resources for ITK/VTK in China are rather sparse and limited. Most ITK/VTK users and developers communicate through QQ groups (similar to AOL and MSN) from the Visualization Laboratory forum (there are about four main QQ groups, with 500 members in total), which are not easy to archive information from for future reference.

Here are some statistics collected from the two major Chinese ITK/VTK forums:
1)  The most popular ITK/VTK forum:
VisLab (

The major panels are the VTK forum, ITK forum, and resource forum. Among these forums, there are 11,082 registered users who have contributed more than 1,500 posts and 8,000 replies. The discussion topics mainly involve installation errors in ITK and VTK, basic visualization concept clarification, and how to use specific VTK classes and simple VTK algorithms. The resources panel collects ITK and VTK software guides and a few tutorials, and shares some useful links in related research fields.

2)  The second most popular  ITK/VTK forum:
C3P Computer Graphics: (

This website provides forums for ITK and VTK discussion. The VTK Forum has 1,853 posted messages and more than 10,000 replies. There are 189 ITK discussion topics with 911 replies. The discussions are mostly technical details with specific programing questions.

This website provides forums for ITK and VTK discussion. The VTK Forum has 1,853 posted messages and more than 10,000 replies. There are 189 ITK discussion topics with 911 replies. The discussions are mostly technical details with specific programing questions.

Outreach to Chinese ITK/VTK Communities
We have seen an increasing number of source code downloads from China over the past few years for ITK, VTK, and Slicer.  During my ITK tutorial tour of three Universities/Institutes of three different cities in China this January, I felt that there is a strong demand for ITK and VTK community support. Graduate students and researchers need better communication channels for getting involved in the global open-source community. Although many of them are signed up to the mailing lists, very few of them actually contribute code to ITK and VTK due to the lack of tutoring on the committing process.

As with the releases of ITK 4.0 and VTK 6.0, the need and opportunities for recruiting new developers into our open-source communities presented themselves. Chinese developers need more community support to migrate to newer versions of ITK and VTK, and the community needs more contributions and involvement from China. The needs are mutual and the time is now!

Many thanks to Professor Jian Yang of the Beijing Institute of Technology in China. All of the survey statistics in the article were provided by him and his students.


Xiaoxiao Liu is an R&D Engineer at Kitware. Her research interests are in medical image analysis and applications, including statistical shape analysis for anatomical structures,  deformable shape modeling and segmentation, diffeomorphic image registration techniques and image-guided radiotherapy.


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