Statistically Deformable Face Models for Cranio-Facial Reconstruction

Peter Claes, Dirk Vandermeulen, Sven De Greef, Guy Willems, Paul Suetens


Forensic facial reconstruction aims at estimating the facial outlook associated to an unknown skull specimen. Estimation is based on tabulated average values of soft tissue thicknesses measured at a sparse set of landmarks on the skull. Traditional 'plastic' methods apply modeling clay or plasticine on a cast of the skull approximating the estimated tissue depths at the landmarks and interpolating in between. Current computerized techniques mimic this landmark interpolation procedure using a single facial surface template. However, the resulting reconstruction is biased by the specific choice of the template and no face specific regularization is present. We reduce the bias by using a flexible statistical model of a dense set of facial surface points combined with an associated sparse set of skull landmarks. The statistical model also provides a probability value, which can be used to regularize the reconstruction towards more plausible outlooks. The reconstruction is obtained by fitting the model skull landmarks to the corresponding landmarks indicated on a digital copy of the skull to be reconstructed. The fitting process alternates between changing the face-specific statistical model parameters and interpolating the remaining landmark fit error using a minimal bending Thin-Plate Spline (TPS) based deformation. Furthermore, estimated properties of the skull specimen (BMI, age and gender e.g.) can be incorporated as conditions on the reconstruction by removing property-related shape variation from the statistical model description before the fitting process. This iterative statistical model based reconstruction process is shown by experiment to converge to a realistic reconstruction of the face, independent of the initial template.

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