Kitware to Enhance the Visualization Toolkit (VTK) to Accelerate Community-Driven Medical Innovation

Kitware is pleased to announce the award of $2.4 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health to enhance and extend the widely-adopted Visualization Toolkit (VTK). This open-source toolkit provides 3D interactive visualization, image processing, and analytics for a multitude of medical image analysis, bioinformatics, and clinical applications.

VTK originated in 1993 as part of the textbook “The Visualization Toolkit: an Object-Oriented Approach to 3D Graphics,” and has since grown into a community of tens-of-thousands of users and developers worldwide. Researchers and software developers use VTK either directly in their development efforts, or indirectly through other open-source end-user applications or toolkits that are built on top of VTK including ParaView, Osirix, VolView, and the Image-Guided Surgery Toolkit.

Historically, VTK been indirectly funded by the development of related applications such as ParaView. This new award comes after a crescendo of requests from the VTK community to reinvigorate the toolkit as a catalyst for interactive visualization research in medicine. As such, this project will update the graphics infrastructure to support the representation and rendering of large data over the web, on mobile platforms, and with interactive 3D widgets. A VTK Extension Manager will also be deployed for easy discovery and download of extensions to VTK.

To fully understand the impact of the proposed refactoring and enhancements of VTK on the medical community, the team will work in close collaboration with the Virtual Lung Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Center for Imaging Science at John Hopkins University, Information Sciences in Imaging Lab at Stanford, the National Association for Medical Image Computing lead by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the FARSIGHT project at the University of Houston.

“We’re ecstatic about this award and the impact it will have on VTK and the medical computing field,” said Will Schroeder, CEO of Kitware. “It is an honor to have such a supportive community advocating for our flagship toolkit, and to help us ensure that it remains the de facto standard for cutting-edge visualization algorithms and application building.”

All work done under this project will be contributed directly to VTK, maintaining the toolkit’s open-source license and adhering to Kitware’s quality cross-platform standards of development and testing.

To learn more about Kitware’s open-source software solutions, or our specific medical and scientific computing expertise, please visit our website or contact

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging And Bioengineering of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01EB014955. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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