Mapping the trajectory of bullets in shooting victims

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Monash University researchers, in collaboration with industry partner Leidos, are working on new technology using machine learning and augmented reality that could one day help forensic investigators track bullet paths in shooting victims.

The project aims to use machine learning to create a digital 3D model of the human anatomy, including entry and exit wounds. This will allow investigators to record the trajectory of the projectile through the body, identify and localise projectile fragments, and may one day be able to assist in determination of projectile calibre and the range from which the projectile was fired. With further development, it could also help investigators determine the type of gun used, and if the wounds were self-inflicted or resulting from attempted homicide.

“Ballistics in forensic medicine has traditionally involved fairly basic analytic techniques, which have not changed for a century,” Associate Professor Richard Bassed, the Deputy Director of VIFM, said. “Before we had CT imaging, we were using x-rays to produce a 2D view of someone’s body, which made localising projectiles and fragments difficult without conducting an internal examination.  Trajectory was determined using basic techniques such as long probes to determine a projectile’s path.  Current imaging techniques can’t differentiate between bullet fragments and foreiygn metal objects, such as a pacemaker or dental fillings.

This technology will allow us to make a 3D digital reconstruction of a shooting victim that we can then slice in multiple planes and directions using advanced computer graphics, including the use of augmented reality. We can then apply machine learning to determine trajectory and projectile fragmentation, and create a 3D-printed model that can potentially be used as evidence in a court of law.”

“So, if we know the weapon and the damage it’s caused in the body, this technology could allow us to provide a more accurate representation of the range, distance and angle from which the bullet was fired,” said Chris Bain, Professor of Practice in Digital Health in the Faculty of Information Technology and Monash University’s Lead for Digital Health. “This approach is much more scientific and rigorous than the way this procedure is currently performed, and fits with recent calls for improved forensic examination practices. The big picture is that post-mortems could be reduced for shooting victims, as this technology has the potential to scan and analyse the body, as opposed to the body being dissected. The technology could streamline workload and time efficiencies, and address any cultural sensitivities that may arise.”

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