Soundbarrier Blog

Personal blog about hardware, software, data and other interesting things.

Glitch Art in Medical Imaging

Sebastian Schaetz

As a computer scientists working on image processing algorithms I know about the frustrating process of hunting bugs on massively-parallel architectures like GPUs. Sometimes those bugs can produce completely incorrect images or sequences of images but with a certain aesthetic appeal.

The art world, with its superior ability to name things (compared to computer science), calls these accidents "Glitch Art"[1].

I have long maintained a directory on my computer called glitch - a place where I capture the moments when my frantic and frustrated debugging yields not the result that I am after but something else, something surprising or pleasant or something that represents my state of mind: confused chaos. Here are a few of my favorite captures from that directory:

Glitch 3
Glitch 3: This shows magnitude and phase of what I seem to recall is a synthetic signal; for fun this is colorized with an art-deco inspired color scheme.

Glitch 6
Glitch 6: Extreme quantization of these 5 frames and stringing them together in an animation in quick succession makes this one look organic, like it is morphing, maybe into the correct answer? Unfortunately not.

Glitch 4
Glitch 4: A fun little ultrasound scanning beam with lots of glitching artifacts throughout and funky colors. This is my second favorite.
Glitch 5
Glitch 5: Wild confetti - I do not recall how this was created but it is likely a data-type misinterpretation (float32 vs rbga perhaps).

Glitch 2
Glitch 2: This is by far my favorite. It is the consequence of an Intel GPU driver bug. There is so much going wrong here - on the left you can see what seems to be an indexing error that gets more visible over time and on the right you see what could be a synchronization problem. You can see the blocks the problem is partitioned into and that some appear to be complete and some are not. Intel eventually fixed that bug.

Glitch 7
Glitch 7: This meant to be a smooth "laser-beam". Close, but no cigar: funky semi-random, semi-repeating patterns in the center of the "laser-beam" are disorienting

I love how these glitch captures give a glimpse into what is going on behind the scenes of an image processing algorithm. If it works flawlessly one does not question all the various steps that make a final image but when things go wrong one can peek behind the curtain and start to get an idea of complexity of what computers do these days.

  1. Note that they do not always have to be accidents, oftentimes Glitch Art is created intentionally. ↩︎