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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 23;14(1):e0210257. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210257. eCollection 2019.

A method for automatic forensic facial reconstruction based on dense statistics of soft tissue thickness.

Author information

Computer Vision and Mixed Reality Group, RheinMain University of Applied Sciences Wiesbaden Rüsselsheim, Wiesbaden, Germany.
Computer Graphics Group, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.
Department of Prosthetic Dentistry, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany.
Institute of Computer Science, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany.
Section of Oral Radiology, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Mainz, Germany.


In this paper, we present a method for automated estimation of a human face given a skull remain. Our proposed method is based on three statistical models. A volumetric (tetrahedral) skull model encoding the variations of different skulls, a surface head model encoding the head variations, and a dense statistic of facial soft tissue thickness (FSTT). All data are automatically derived from computed tomography (CT) head scans and optical face scans. In order to obtain a proper dense FSTT statistic, we register a skull model to each skull extracted from a CT scan and determine the FSTT value for each vertex of the skull model towards the associated extracted skin surface. The FSTT values at predefined landmarks from our statistic are well in agreement with data from the literature. To recover a face from a skull remain, we first fit our skull model to the given skull. Next, we generate spheres with radius of the respective FSTT value obtained from our statistic at each vertex of the registered skull. Finally, we fit a head model to the union of all spheres. The proposed automated method enables a probabilistic face-estimation that facilitates forensic recovery even from incomplete skull remains. The FSTT statistic allows the generation of plausible head variants, which can be adjusted intuitively using principal component analysis. We validate our face recovery process using an anonymized head CT scan. The estimation generated from the given skull visually compares well with the skin surface extracted from the CT scan itself.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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