OsteoScope was first conceived as an interactive 3D digital tool to visualize palaeontological cranial specimens. It was based on the potential learning and research advantages in combining CT cranial data, which are objective digital representations of physical specimens, with interactive 3D technology such as gaming engines. The goal was to produce a virtual reality environment, which augments the ways in which the specimen can be visually manipulated.

Working Prototype

Working web versions of OsteoScope are available online. Please click on the images below to access that version of OsteoScope. To use the application, your browser must have the Unity Web Player installed (you will be prompted to do so if you do not already have it installed).

Note: OsteoScope is currently not supported on mobile devices, and must be viewed on computer web browsers.

Current Version – OsteoScope v1.2.5


v1.2.5 notes

  • Navigation mouse input disabled when cursor is over menus
  • Labels off by default
  • Fixed bug where explode with keyboard shortcut also caused orbit

Demonstration Video

Project Development

In collaboration with a content expert, vertebrate paleontologist Dr. Reisz, BMC committee members, Prof. Dave Mazierski and Dr. Shelley Wall, and BMC New Media lecturers Prof. Michael Corrin and Dr. Jodie Jenkinson, a working prototype of OsteoScope was developed using Unity, a 3D gaming engine and development software. As much of this project was experimental – adapting existing technologies for alterative purposes – an iterative process of design, experiment, integration, and feedback process was followed to build up and continually revise the functions of the application.



The first stage is conceptualizing what functions should be included in the application. It is at this stage that we also discussed the importance of each function. Due to the complexity of the initial conceptualization of the project and the limited time available for development, it was necessary to prioritize the functions according to importance. For example, the basic navigation functions were essential, while the ability to change the colour of the model was ultimately not included in the application.


In order to tackle the various technological challenges associated with developing different functions, it was essential break up the project into individual components and develop each function separately. Each function was first built as a proof of concept within Unity to develop the required scripts and programming strategies.


Once it has been shown through a proof of concept that a function is possible, it was incorporated it into the main OsteoScope project.


New functions were continuously presented to the content expert, committee, professors, and peers to gain feedback on how to improve them.

Functions Overview

The final working prototype represents numerous repetitions of the iterative process to build up the number of functions in the application. Below are screenshots of OsteoScope and a summary of the functions that were included.


This is the basic interface of the application. The navigational menu (orbit, zoom, explode) is located that the top of the viewport. Users can activate these functions by clicking on the icon, or by using keyboard shortcuts (instructions are available via a pop-up menu). The icon colour changes when it is clicked on, and the button background colour changes when a particular navigational function is activated. These colour changes provide visual aids for which function is currently active, especially when the user uses both the buttons and keyboard shortcuts interchangeably.

This screen shot demonstrates the explode function, one of the key features of this application. Users can move the individual bones of the cranium apart to reveal internal structures. They can also bring the cranium back into the intact position.
Here, the user has changed the camera target from the centre of the cranium/viewport to a specific bone (in this case, the green bone). They then used the ruler tool to set two markers on that bone, and find the linear distance between the two markers.
Users are also able to toggle the visibility of each individual bone. When a bone is toggled off, the user can vary its opacity from 0-50%, enabling the context of the entire cranium to be retained if desired, while examining components of the cranium that are not normally visible in the intact cranium.
Lastly, users can hide the menus when they are not in use, to so that they do not obscure the viewport.


Project Documentation

This is a comprehensive documentation of the OsteoScope project. It includes workflow tutorials to extract 3D models from CT data and to optimize these raw 3D models for integration into end-product applications.

Vesalius Trust 2013 Student Research Poster

This document is a research poster for the workflow used in the development of OsteoScope, presented at an annual student research poster session during the 2013 Association of Medical Illustrator conference in Salt Lake City. The session is generously funded by the Vesalius Trust, a non-profit organization that supports research and education in visual communications for the medical and life sciences. The poster was awarded an Honourable Mention by the judging committee.


OsteoScope is a Master’s Research Project

Submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Masters of Science in Biomedical Communications (MScBMC)
Offered through the Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine
University of Toronto Mississauga

©2013 Agnes Chan, MScBMC candidate, BSc

Project Supervisor:
Dave Mazierski, BScAAM, MSc, CMI

BMC Committee Member:
Shelley Wall, AOCAD, MScBMC, PhD

Content Advisor:
Robert Reisz, BSc, MSc, PhD

Special thanks to:
Jodie Jenkinson, BA, MScBMC, PhD
Michael Corrin, BFA, BA, BSc, MScBMC
Jessie Maisano, BA, MPhil, PhD
Timothy Rowe, BSc, MSc, PhD