VAST Challenge 2018

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Suspense at the Wildlife Preserve

About the VAST Challenge

The Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) Challenge is an annual contest with the goal of advancing the field of visual analytics through competition. The VAST Challenge is designed to help researchers understand how their software would be used in a novel analytic task and determine if their data transformations, visualizations, and interactions would be beneficial for particular analytic tasks. VAST Challenge problems provide researchers with realistic tasks and data sets for evaluating their software, as well as an opportunity to advance the field by solving more complex problems.

Researchers and software providers have repeatedly used the data sets from throughout the life of the VAST Challenge as benchmarks to demonstrate and test the capabilities of their systems. The ground truth embedded in the data sets has helped researchers evaluate and strengthen the utility of their visualizations.

The VAST Challenge 2018 presents three mini-challenges for you to apply your visual analytics research and technologies to help a continuing troublesome state of affairs in a wildlife preserve.

These challenges are open to participation by individuals and teams in industry, government, and academia. We encourage your submissions and look forward to seeing your innovative approaches to solving these challenges using visual analytics.

The Challenges

Note: This scenario and all the people, places, groups, technologies, contained therein are fictitious. Any resemblance to real people, places, groups, or technologies is purely coincidental.


Mistford is a mid-size city located to the southwest of the Boonsong Lekagul Wildlife Preserve. The city has a small industrial area with four light-manufacturing endeavors. Mistford and the wildlife preserve are struggling with the possible endangerment of the Rose-Crested Blue Pipit, a locally loved bird. The bird’s nesting pairs seem to have decreased alarmingly, prompting an investigation last year implicating Kasios Office Furniture, a Mistford manufacturing firm. Since the initial investigation, the situation has evolved: Kasios insists that they have done nothing wrong! They assert that grad student Mitch Vogel and his professors are mere media-seekers trying to draw attention away from their lackadaisical research. Kasios presents itself as an extremely eco-friendly organization. They have launched their own very public investigation into the issues raised last year and are reporting very different results! It’s time to apply your visual analytics expertise to help illuminate the path to good science.

The scenario for this challenge builds on last year’s but the challenges are new. Readings from across the mini-challenges will help you with this year's effort. This year's scenario (the setting, the geography, the situation) are carried over to this year, however, you do not have to have participated in last year's challenge to work on this year's.

Mini-Challenge 1

Claims that the Rose-Crested Blue Pipit are healthy and vibrant across the whole preserve are a key component of Kasios' position against the work done by grad student Mitch from last year. Other data sources are needed to further investigate the birds' situation. Perhaps these bird call recordings could provide more insight into the real situation? Blending machine learning and visual analytics may be a powerful combination for this mini-challenge.

Mini-Challenge 2

According to Kasios, those funny colored satellite images from the Preserve only prove that it is a diverse, changing habitat and that the peculiar images Mitch identified are not conclusive evidence of any wrongdoing. They argue that the other industries should be taking as good care of the area as Kasios corporate and its volunteer squads do year round. To show their goodwill, Kasios reports that they recently donated staff time and money to refurbish ranger stations and campgrounds across the Preserve! Does Kasios have a case here? Perhaps some new visualization of river contaminants and analyses within the Preserve may help illustrate that the new Kasios story doesn't hold water (or does it?).

Mini-Challenge 3

An unexpected source suggests extent of the Kasios' involvement in illicit activities may be much broader than just Mistford and the Wildlife Preserve. Visualization and analysis of some challenging data may provide further insights on the scope of their activities. This challenge may prove to be a stretch task for all VAST Challenge participants!

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