Virtobot—a multi-functional robotic system for 3D surface scanning and automatic post mortem biopsy




The Virtopsy project, a multi-disciplinary project that involves forensic science, diagnostic imaging, computer science, automation technology, telematics and biomechanics, aims to develop new techniques to improve the outcome of forensic investigations. This paper presents a new approach in the field of minimally invasive virtual autopsy for a versatile robotic system that is able to perform three-dimensional (3D) surface scans as well as post mortem image-guided soft tissue biopsies.


The system consists of an industrial six-axis robot with additional extensions (i.e. a linear axis to increase working space, a tool-changing system and a dedicated safety system), a multi-slice CT scanner with equipment for angiography, a digital photogrammetry and 3D optical surface-scanning system, a 3D tracking system, and a biopsy end effector for automatic needle placement. A wax phantom was developed for biopsy accuracy tests.


Surface scanning times were significantly reduced (scanning times cut in half, calibration three times faster). The biopsy module worked with an accuracy of 3.2 mm.


Using the Virtobot, the surface-scanning procedure could be standardized and accelerated. The biopsy module is accurate enough for use in biopsies in a forensic setting.


The Virtobot can be utilized for several independent tasks in the field of forensic medicine, and is sufficiently versatile to be adapted to different tasks in the future. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.