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Artec 3D scanners help police identify footprints at crime scenes

Summary: It’s a common problem at crime scenes where multiple footprints are found in confusing patterns and in difficult to see places. A suspect’s footprints can often be overlooked or misidentified unless clearly confirmed and traced.

The Goal: To use lightweight, handheld 3D scanners to digitally capture the full topography of specific footprints on location at crime scenes, easily and quickly.

Tool Used: Artec MHT

The official distributor for Artec in China, Beijing Coase Instrument Company Limited, recently participated in a joint project of the police for the city of Zhoukou, located in Henan province, and Beijing University of Technology-CAUP. Thanks to the Artec scanner they were able to greatly simplify their system of stereo modeling and recognition of footprints. The principle of how the system works is rather simple. The footprints of all people are unique, regardless of what kind of shoe they are wearing, because various parts of the foot press upon the ground with various force and leave behind a unique topography on the surface. Accordingly, one can compare not only the tracks of bare feet, but also the tracks left behind by shoes. Previously, in order to obtain a three-dimensional model of the track, they had to take measurements manually. Now the forensic experts use the Artec MHT scanner.

How it works:

Scan footprint at the crime scene.

Scan footprint of suspect.

Both scans are imported into special software which was developed jointly by Beijing University of Technology-CAUP, the city police of Zhoukou, and Beijing Coase Instrument Company Limited. The program allocates different colors to different depths of the footprint topography (the closer the color is to red, the higher the topographic point – the closer to blue, the deeper).

The topography of both scans is analyzed, as a result of which the program determines whether the footprints belong to the same person. In this case, the footprints are from different people.

The special software developed by Beijing University of Technology-CAUP, the Zhoukou police, and Beijing Coase Instrument Company Limited is not yet available as it is still being tested. However, we believe that these technologies are the future of forensics, and hope to continue our successful cooperation with all participants in the project.

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