Friday, October 17, 2008

Putting Digital Meat on the Bones

Ever see one of those cop shows or National Geographic specials where a sculptor turns a tattered old skull into a realistic face?

Today's Visualization Friday Forum was a fascinating tour through the history and future of this exacting art with Andrea Stevenson Won, a medical illustrator and modeler from Raleigh who has done work on prosthetics and museum displays. (she hasn't solved any crimes yet, sorry)

Using intimate knowledge of facial anatomy and some average tissue thicknesses at various landmarks across the face, artists like Won can make an educated guess about a skull's former face. Eyebrows, hair, smirks, etc. get into art, and that's where it can quickly get misleading, she said.

Clay's out -- today it's all done digitally, allowing modelers to do three versions of the same skull, as seen here in this reconstruction of a woman who died in Illinois in the 1840s. Andrea also works with Duke's anaplastology clinic, helping make customized prosthetics for patients who are still very much alive.

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