New Trend: 3-D Faces on Gravestones

Aug 5, 2011 | 0 comments

Creepy or comforting? I’m thinking this development is kinda creepy. A company in Florida called LOOKLIKES is using 3-D mapping technology developed for turning Mars and Moon landscapes into topographical models (for plotting suitable landing sites) to make eerily realistic face sculptures of the deceased to put on their memorial markers.

The technology will be introduced at this year’s National Funeral Directors Association convention in Chicago. The images cost about $1,000, and the scanning devices the funeral homes will use to help make them are expected to be available for leasing starting in October.

The scanner records the deceased’s face by using multiple lasers that fire at the same time, and a computer stores the three-dimensional image. The image is sent into a model-making machine that produces the form in a weather- and sun-resistant polymer-based material.

Here’s the news release from LOOKLIKES:

You simply do not like to think about losing those you love. For some, the anxious feeling when visiting their final resting place, particularly with children, is so austere that you sometimes avoid it altogether. In fact, the memory of what they looked like often fades, particularly when they have been gone a while.

Yet, our dependence on trying to keep that thread of contact alive by staring at a grave marker is expected if not anticipated. That will change radically in October with the unveiling of space-based technology that lets Funeral Directors puts a life-size replica of the deceased on grave markers.

Making news these days is the latest connection between the technology of the Space Program used to map other worlds being joined with the real world and the “great beyond”. The result is a 3-D head generated by computer in a stone-like material that “personalizes” headstones, adding a “friendlier” aspect to visits.

This year’s convention of 6,000 U.S. Funeral Directors in Chicago will see the unveiling of this quasi technology transfer of the 3-D mapping that turns Mars and Moon landscapes into topographical models for plotting suitable landing sites into an exact copy of the departed with such accuracy that one Funeral Director previewing it in Apopka (Florida) commented it was “scary”. Another saw it as “a totally additional revenue stream that will become a standard along with other funeral planning.”

Called “LOOKLIKES”, it is a technology transfer to the free enterprise system thought up by a few of the 30,000 or so who used to have gainful employment from NASA’s Shuttle Mission among other space efforts and were stoically facing vast unemployment with few prospects.

“Brevard is like a ghost town already. All my neighbors are heading for the hills” is a prevailing feeling among those lining up for the occasional job fair staged by Workforce, the Space Alliance, and others.

It came about when some of those attending a free presentation by the non profit Emerging Growth Institute on alternate ways to get ahead as an alternative to the troubling issues of giving up and moving away from Florida took the “head” part to heart.

No pipe dream, making news among those out of work these days is the “buzz” about how a lucky few started an entirely new industry by “thinking outside the box.” Applying their high-tech skills learned over many years to the more mundane pursuit of changing the “face” of cemeteries may seem bizarre but it is about to happen “big time.”

A clinical psychologist observing the behavior of those at grave sites sees the detachment from simply trying to visualize those who have passed as being overcome by having an actual representation of the deceased.

“Watching people with small children at a cemetery signals that simply staring at a headstones lacks any real personal connection. They appear uncomfortable when there and no doubt dread the visit when it is announced. After all, it is not a picnic and when some time has passed there is only the progression for the adults of trying to retain a basic image in their mind of the deceased.”

Changing an entire industry may seem a daunting task but as the Federal Trade Commission (which once investigated alleged anti-competitive business practices) will attest, the funeral home/cemetery business has the unusual characteristic of only two major players (SCI and Loewen) among the 20,915 funeral homes estimated in 2010 (According to the U.S. Funeral Directors Association).

While exact cemetery figures vary, with 3,141 counties in the United states, if every county had only 100 cemeteries (and that is a gross underestimate, according to  there would be well over 300,000 cemeteries that could enhance tombstones with the 3-D likeness concept.  With such a large industry gathering inChicago, generating awareness of the potential additional revenue stream from LOOKLIKES could be “like shooting fish in  a barrel.”

With solid financials, exclusive products and the very favorable demographics of market penetration with only two major targets, EGI, (which planted the idea to encourage saving families from financial ruin by starting a business instead of job hunting) stands to benefit greatly from having encouraged this unusual entrepreneurship by going “public with an IPO in the works.” “After all,” points out  CEO Michael Shulman, “It is in the greatest tradition of American free enterprise.”

A Good Goodbye