Swiss robot performs virtual autopsies, preserves bodies digitally

The University of Bern in Switzerland is using a robot known as the Virtobot to not only study dead bodies virtually, but create a digital copy of the cadaver so that it might be studied years down the line. The Virtobot uses MRI technology and computer topography software to get a complete look at a body without having to open it up.

From the Swiss National Science Foundation:

Michael Thali and his team also use a specialised robot in their work. They call this forensic high-tech assistant Virtobot. In the Virtopsy laboratory, it projects a light bar onto the corpse being examined. The imaged body contours are recorded in high definition using a digital stereo camera. At the same time, the Virtobot images the texture of the skin. "Then we harmonise these surface images with the three-dimensional CR data of the entire body", explains Lars Ebert, who programmed Virtobot as part of the National Centres of Competence in Research, Co-Me. Forensic doctors are thus provided with a high-precision, three-dimensional image of the body and can examine it on-screen from all angles, both externally and internally.

What's more, these virtual copies of the deceased are archived and can be looked up later if, for example, new evidence arises on a case. All in all it's a useful tool for any doctor, though you won't see a medical robot such as the Virtobot replacing coroners just yet. While digital information of this nature has been approved as evidence in court, it's only admissible if accompanied by a conventional, cut-and-probe autopsy.

Check out a video explanation of the technology below:

Medgadget, via io9