Friday, 28 March 2014

FACCE, a crowsourcing campaign to build a real open source exhibition

Hi all,
like I wrote in this post, we are working to organize an open source exhibition in Padua for October 2014. In our intentions the concept "open" will be applied to different aspects of the event:

  1.  The scientific work will be performed using just Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and, when possible, the exhibition will be staged with open hardware devices
  2. All the produced material (3D models, images, software, hardware) will be released with open licenses (CC-BY)
  3. When necessary, part of the budget will be collected with specific crowdfunding campaigns, connected with minor projects
  4. We will try to obtian some material for the exhibition with crowdsourcing campaigns, asking people to release the material with open licenses
Today I'd like to explain the 4th point and start one of this crowd-sourcing campaign, which will be also a social experiment to see the potentiality of this medium for cultural aims.
One of the session of the exhibition will be dedicated to pareidolia, which is a "... psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant..." (quote Wikipedia). Obviously we are interested in this matter as it is also related with faces, being this figure one of the most common subject which people sees in different contexts. In this regard Leonardo da Vinci, thinking to pareidolia a device for painters, wrote: "if you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things which you can then reduce into separate and well conceived forms" (1). Of curse pareidolia in not only a matter for artists and also normal people are able to see "beyond the image" (from greek παρά είδωλον). Here below you can see one of the most famous picture in this sense, the "Face on Mars" which the NASA spacecraft Viking I took on the red planet surface.

Photo from the Viking I spacecraft (Public Domain)

As you see pareidolia is a phenomenon which involves different aspect of human life, form art, in which is often used intentionally like in the paints of Giuseppe Arcimboldo...

L'ortolano o Ortaggi in una ciotola G. Arcimboldo (Public Domain)

 ... to psychology, where some of the images of the Rorschach test are perceived by patients as human faces (2)

the seventh blot of the Rorschach inkblot test (Public Domain)

... to  religion, like in this XIX century picture, in which some people sees the face of Jesus...

Swedish anonymous XIX century (Public Domain)

... and here we are to the meaning of this post: we need your help to collect pictures of different subjects in which is possible to see faces. In other words, with this post we want to start a crowdsourcing campaign on this topic to set up a special session of the exhibition in which we plan to show your contributes with a digital installation. To help us you can upload your picture on the exhibition FaceBook page (soon we will open also other channels). Do not forget to give your work the credits (that will be presented with the picture):

YOUR NAME (necessary)
THE LICENSE (necessary)

We suggest you to use a Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC-BY 4.0), but also other form of open license are accepted. Here is the official CC website to choose a license.

As an example, below you can see my personal contribute: the dashboard of my car.

Dashboard (Luca Bezzi, CC-BY 4.0)

We count on your help! Have a nice day and thanks in advance!


(1) Da Vinci, Leonardo (1923). John, R; Don Read, J, eds. "Note-Books Arranged And Rendered Into English". Empire State Book Co.

(2) Alvin G. Burstein, Sandra Loucks (1989). Rorschach's test: scoring and interpretation. New York: Hemisphere Pub. Corp. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-89116-780-8.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Digital facial reconstruction - blind tests and practical application of the protocol

Learning how to model a face on the computer is not an easy task. In the world there are over six billion people and no faces are alike. Even the artist study a lot, he will never be able to model every possible way, he will never be able to master the nuances of complexity that we have in this region of the body so notorious.

Still speaking of these distinct features, I confess I had not realized this thing until I started working with facial reconstruction. In this case the artist or scientist who will rebuild almost always have no idea what will present itself before his eyes until he finish the work. Once he reconstructs and compares the data with the individual's appearance in life, the more he sees that he can not stop studying.

There are professionals in this area are excellent rebuilders of Caucasian, Negroid, or Malays. Hardly an artist/scientist is good at all ancestries. The reason? Simple. Besides the complexity of the face shape, we yet have the details differ one ancestry from another . Could you describe what differs a native Japanese from a Brazilian aboriginal? Besides describing, you could draw? In addition to drawing, you could create in 3D? It really is not easy. Even when we speak of close people, like relatives or friends, it is difficult to mentally reconstruct every detail of their faces. Imagine having to model all this with only a skull as a base!

General Remarks 

Over those two years of studies I had the opportunity to rebuild faces in blind tests, where I received only the skull, estimated data on sex, age and ancestry. With this information in hand I applied the concepts studied and modeled step by step an approximation based on statistical and anatomical data.

Unfortunately I can not show all cases, because some of them I don't have the license of use the images, but overall were successful experiences. Although the result did not get 100% loyalty, the data gathered from the comparison show that meshes volumes created digitally not differ much from those modeled from scientific parameters.

There are many difficulties related to this heterogeneous reality of the shape of the human face. Because of this it is important  always have a help of professionals related with the areas of forensic dentistry, forensic anthropology and medicine. Having access to books and articles on plastic surgery can help a lot, because aside from having a different approach of classical anatomy textbooks, also offers a vast literature on human ancestry.

Still need to have expertise regarding the modeling of some parts of the face. A classic problem involving facial reconstruction is the area above the craniometric points supra and sub M2 (referring to the location of the second molars), or "the cheek".

The nose is another part of difficult approach when we talk of volumetric accuracy. Even so, when crossing the most popular protocols available in publications, at least we has a projection very close to real.

The passing years also influence a reconstruction, because the human skin becomes more lax with the change of collagen fibers over time. In the elderly, for example, there is a tendency of slightly nose-down, influencing the projections based on the scientific literature.

After some studies, I developed a protocol for facial reconstructions using open software. This was done with Dr. Paulo Miamoto and Dr. Rodolfo Melani, both Forensic Dentists from Forensic Odontology and Anthropology Laboratory at Faculty of Dentistry of University of São Paulo (OFLAB-FOUSP). One of the main aspects of the protocol is that once the user undergoes basic training on the softwares that are used, one may take his/her first steps, as the software functions are specified in the manuscript. Another important information is that the protocol features from digitization of the skull from CT scans/digital photographs until the finishing of the reconstruction. This article can be found here:

Studies, partnerships and experience, this is the holy trinity of a good facial reconstruction strongly committed to impartiality.

How work the tests 

The vast majority of studies presented here were carried out in partnership with Dr. Paul Miamoto (FO-USP). 

1) Initially I send him a 3D skull extracted from a CT-scan.

2) Dr. Miamoto analyze the material and inform me, within the limitations of 3D models, he estimate parameters that comprise the biological profile of the individual, such as gender, age and ancestry. In addition, other relevant information, such as ante-mortem injuries, diseases and other dentocraniofacials changes that can cause changes in facial appearance are also pointed out.

3) With the data in hand I start the process of facial reconstruction, carving the major muscles of the face and other structures, as well as the nose and lips from tissues depths tables.

4) As soon as I finish the basic modeling I send the result to Dr. Miamoto. After preliminary analysis to review the anatomical, anthropological and odontoforensic parameters, the job is routed to completion.

5) For comparison with the true face of the individual, the viewer program tomographic images, the individual's skin is exported as a 3D model. This model of the "real" skin and carved skin are open in a mesh comparison program. The results are shown in a color map with a graph that quantitatively represents the difference in depth between the two. The more the color inclines to green, the more the difference approaches 0 mm.


Despite the great satisfaction with the results I and my research partners are cautious. As explained above, perform well modeling a group or an ancestry does not mean that the technique is mastered. Does not mean that success will be our constant companion. We will only have a broader sure if we study more, and even we study for the rest of life, hard, all the days we still have, surely we know very little before all the possibilities that this world facial heterogeneity offer us.


To Dr. Marcos Machado Paulo Salles, for the opportunities related to forensic facial reconstruction studies. To Dr. Adriana Dal'Acqua by research material and valuable information related to facial geometry.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

“FACCE. I molti volti della storia umana”, an open source exhibition

It's been more than one year since the conclusion of the Taung Project and many things have happened. Today I want to post something related with one of the most important derivations of this project: the exhibition "FACCE. I molti volti della storia umana" (en "Faces. The many aspects of human history"). The event is organized by the Anthropological Museum of the University of Padua, from an idea of Dott. Nicola Carrara, and it is a cooperation between the Museum, the University, Arc-Team and Antrocom NPO (the same actors of the Taung Project). I will not go into details of the exhibition, due to the fact it is still a work in progress being its opening planned for October 2014, but I post the preliminary presentation we did during the European Academic Heritage Day 2013 ("Down the Rabbit hole", backstage of knowledge production).

 As you ague form the title, the main topic of the exhibition is the human face, which, in the words of the French photograper Gisele Freund, is also the "the only part of the body to be exposed naked to the first comer." Actually the thematic sessions planned for the event are six:

1. "Guardiamo in faccia la diversità umana" (en "Let's face human diversity"), which is dedicated to human evolution and will take advantage of the forensic facial reconstructions of the principal actors in the phylogenetic human three, preformed by the Brazilian digital artist +Cícero Moraes.

2. "Una faccia, una razza?" (en "One face, one race?"). This section will show the division of mankind into races proposed by various authors in the 700-800, which will have more deleterious effects in the first decades of the 1900s. Nowadays, thanks especially to human genetic studies, we can say that the division of Homo sapiens into races is just a cultural and social construction, without any sense in biology.

3.  "Una faccia, un destino?" (en "A face, a fate?"), in which the main topic will be physiognomy, analyzed from the artistic aspects of the XVI century till the pseudoscientific approach in the XIX century criminology in connection with phrenology, another famous pseudoscience, well-accepted in the same period.

4. "Con quella faccia un po' così" (quote from the popular Italian song "Genova per Noi" of the singer Paolo Conte), a session in which will be proposed different forensic facial reconstructions of historical personalities connected with the city of Padua.

5. "Ma che faccia fai?" (Italian popular expression). This part of the exhibition will be dedicated to human facial expressions.

6. "Dalla faccia alla maschera: il volto simbolico" (en "From the face to the mask: the symbolic aspect"). The final session will take advantage from the contribute of the Museo Internazionale della Maschera, Amleto e Donato Sartori and will show the symbolic aspect of the face: the mask.

The contribute of Arc-Team to the exhibition, in addition to the forensic facial reconstructions that will be created by our expert (+Cícero Moraes), will cover the touristic fruition of the event through scientific interactive installations mainly based on Computer Vision (from Augmented Reality to Facial Recognition and Motion Capture). In the presentation you can see some of the projected prototype, as well as some sources of inspiration (e.g. the movie "A scanner Darkly") some examples from the software we will use (e.g. Openframeworks). 

As you probably guessed from the title of this post, the main peculiarity of this event will be the fact that it can be considered an "open source exhibition", maybe the first of its kind, due to the fact that all the produced material will be released under the therms of the Creative Commons Attribution, which is a license approved for free cultural works. Moreover open techniques will be used also to collect material for the exhibition itself, with specific crowedsourcing campaigns, while part of the budget will be probably collected wit crowdfunding. I will have time to post more news about these last two topics, by now I just hope that you'll enjoy the presentation below (like always, to navigate just click on the image and use the spacebar to browse the slides).

For a better visualization, click here

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Scientific publications with Blender 3D and free software

Despite the enjoyment that the nerds have to share knowledge openly and informally by internet through websites, blogs and social media, is of fundamental importance  the production of scientific publications in qualified journals.

Thus it offers for those interested in developing research in the same field the ability to use the knowledge and even cite who wrote them.

A few days ago, we finally had our protocol forensic facial reconstruction published in a journal of dentistry. Through a partnership with the Laboratory of Anthropology and Forensic Dentistry, USP (OFLAB-USP Brazil), we ( me, Dr. Paulo Miamoto and Dr. Rodolfo Melani) described step by step the process of scanning a skull with photogrammetry and how reconstruct the face with free software.

This is an innovative technique and most importantly, totally open and free. All software used is free of cost and with source available to those who wish to study them, adapt them or even improve the code. Evidently the person must have  available a computer and a digital camera to be able to apply it. Of course, this individual must know the anatomy of the face and learn to use the programs described, but for the first case usually the interested person already have the professional training and for the second we have on our sites a wide range of tutorials and references.

For those who want to access (free of charge) the document, a PDF, it can be downloaded here:

Fortunately the article above was not the only publication that involved our staff and the use of free software.

 This time, in partnership with the Center for Information Technology Renato Archer (CTI) and archaeologist Dr. Moacir Elias Santos, we have published a paper that was presented at the 6th International Conference on Advanced Research in Virtual and Rapid Prototyping (VRAP 2013) in Leiria, Portugal. Dr. Jorge Vicente Lopes da Silva and Paulo Henrique Junqueira Amorim (InVesalius developer) traveled to the "little land" to present the work. At the end he had been printed and made available for access (upon payment of US$ 20.00) at the following link:

This paper was not the only fruit of scientific partnership with Dr. Moacir Elias Santos, we also wrote an article about the history and facial reconstruction of the mummy Tothmea, which is in and Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, in Curitiba-PR.

The article entitled "The Tothmea's mummy project: from history to the forensic facial approximation" describes since the arrival of the mummy to the United States, her donation to the Museum Rosicrucian Brazil and finally her facial reconstruction, with the massive use of software free.

The magazine (#2) has been already diagrammed and will soon have its printed version, it (probably) will cost € 10.00 on the site:

We also have the panels and presentations in Portuguese and Italian, all with emphasis on the use of the software.

Many of the works are listed on my Lattes resume (a Brazilian system of resumes) in: Abstracts in Annals of Congress: (Google Translator)

As we see the use of free software is not only possible but effective and practical to be applied in day-to-day of professionals related to archeology, dentistry and 3D computer graphics. Not forgetting the many other areas that can use the improvement offered by these solutions. When formally published, the results open the possibility of rich and interdisciplinary bibliographic production making these tools go to the barn prime of scientific rigor... the universities.

See you in the next post!
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