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Forensic Sci Int. 2013 Jun 10;229(1-3):161.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.03.028. Epub 2013 Apr 28.

Who is this person? A comparison study of current three-dimensional facial approximation methods.

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Division of Imaging Research and Applied Anatomy, Department of Radiology, University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, 12901 Bruce B Downs Boulevard, MDC 75 Tampa, FL 33612, USA.


Facial approximation is a common tool utilised in forensic human identification. Three-dimensional (3D) imaging technologies allow researchers to go beyond traditional clay models to now create virtual computed models of anatomical structures. The goal of this study was to compare the accuracy of available methods of facial approximation ranging from clay modelling to advanced computer facial approximation techniques. Two computerised reconstructions (FaceIT and FBI's ReFace) and two manual reconstructions (completed by FBI's Neville and Faraut) were completed using a skull from a known individual. A living individual's computed tomography (CT) scan was used to create a virtual 3D model of the skull and soft tissue of the face. The virtual skull models were provided to the computer-based approximation specialists. A rapid prototype of the skull was printed and provided to the practitioners who needed physical specimens. The results from all of the methods (clay and virtual) were compared visually to each other and collectively to the actual features of the living individual to compare the results of each. A quantitative study was also conducted to establish the accuracy of each method and the regions of the face that need the most improvement for all of the specialists. This project demonstrates the wide range of variation between commonly used facial identification methods. The benefit of this study was having a living individual to test the strengths and weaknesses of each method while also providing future areas of focus for soft tissue depth data studies.

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