"Software that reconstructs faces from skulls has been developed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Germany. The software starts with a 3D laser scan of a skull, adds markers to indicate tissue depth, then builds layers of muscles and skin.
The method could speed forensic work, and could also be used to reconstruct long-extinct animal species, said Kolja K?hler, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute.
The idea came about when the researchers used an anatomy-based approach for facial modeling and animation. "One of the major problems there was shaping... anatomical structures to fit a given 3D skin model," said K?hler. The researchers later realized that the method could be inverted. "Using just about the same math, it is also possible to start from a virtual skull model and construct the muscle layer and skin on top of that," he said.
I find this development very exciting. I have always been fascinated by the virtual reconstructions of historical figures from skulls that have been found in excavations. This process may make it much less expensive and make it possible to build a database of faces from the past! I only regret that most Romans were cremated so we probably will never know if the sculptures left behind of many famous Romans were truly accurate.
See also: http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/fsc/backissu/jan2001/phillips.htm