Police Hope to Solve Murder by 3D Printing the Victim’s Fingers

Share this Article

msusSometimes life seems like a bizarre episode of Law & Order. In the latest episode of “life is stranger than fiction,” a computer science professor has been tasked with helping police to solve a murder – by 3D printing the victim’s fingers. Michigan State University professor Anil Jain specializes in the study of biometric identification, which is the science of identifying individuals by unique traits such as fingerprints, retina patterns, etc. with specialized computer programs. Jain’s focus is on making those programs as hack-proof as possible, and he was recently asked to put his own hacking skills to the test.

While not many details can be released about the murder as it’s an ongoing investigation, the police who approached Jain believe that they may be able to determine who murdered a man by studying information contained in the victim’s cell phone. However, they’re unable to access that information as the phone, like many newer models, is protected by a fingerprint identification system.

iphonefingerprint380The police did have the victim’s fingerprints on file, though, as he had been arrested before, so they approached Jain and his PhD student Sunpreet Arora with a question – could they use the 2D fingerprints to create 3D printed replicas of the man’s fingers, fingerprints and all? Jain and Arora were willing to try.

An immediate challenge presented itself – one reason that fingerprints are such a secure way to protect information is that devices like phones react to the electrical conductivity of human skin, so a plastic replica, no matter how perfect, isn’t enough to unlock a device the way an actual finger can. However, metallic inks are also conductive – researchers have actually been experimenting with 3D printing with metallic inks at the nanoscale to make phones even more responsive to touch.

Arora reversed that idea by coating the fingerprints on the 3D printed fingers with a metallic, conductive material that should be able to react with the phone to unlock it the way an actual fingerprint would. He doesn’t have it fully perfected yet, but he’s working on refining the method and hopes to have the technology ready to give to the police in the next few weeks.

It’s a fascinating idea, especially if it does lead to information that will help the police solve the murder. It also poses several interesting legal and ethical conundrums, however – not necessarily in this case, but if the technology were to catch on, police could get into the phones of living suspects with just their fingerprints and a warrant. In this era of technology, in which so much of our personal information and, some would say, our very identities, are digitized, the laws are still hazy and often seemingly arbitrary when it comes to how information can be obtained.

tmp748962450992267266According to researcher Bryan Choi, who studies issues of technology and law, phones locked by fingerprints are considered fair game as evidence, while phone protected by passwords are not. In an interview with Fusion, Choi said that courts usually draw a distinction between “contents of the mind,” like passwords, which are protected under the Fifth Amendment, and “tangible bodily evidence,” i.e. DNA and fingerprints, which are not protected.

In this case, since the victim is deceased, the information in his phone can’t be used against him in any way, even if he did commit crimes in the past. If the murderer is apprehended, however, and the police want to get into his phone, it’s a very different story. Issues like this could be discussed for hours, with perhaps no real “right” answer – but looking at this from a purely objective standpoint, what Jain and Arora are doing is an amazing example of what technology can do. I suspect that, if the technique does lead to an arrest, we’ll be hearing a lot more about this case in the future. Discuss this amazing case further over in the 3D Printing Victim’s Fingers forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Fusion]

 

Share this Article


Recent News

3Dsimo Multipro – the One Tool to Rule Them All (7 in 1)

Optomec Releases LENS Laser Deposition Head (LDH 3.X) for Additive Manufacturing



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Researchers Use Autodesk Ember 3D Printer to Characterize 3D Printed Lenses

In the recently published ‘Characterization of 3D printed lenses and diffraction gratings made by DLP additive manufacturing,’ international researchers studied digital fabrication of optical parts using DLP 3D printing. Examining...

Germanium, Silica & Titanium Lend Stability to 3D Printing Optical Glass

In the recently published ‘Sol-Gel Based Nanoparticles for 3D Printing of Optical Glass,’ Peter Palencia and Koroush Sasan of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are innovating further in the realm of...

Lithuanian Startup Dear Deer Eyewear Offers Bespoke 3D Printed Eyeglasses Online

Because I was really into Barbies at age 6 when I first got prescription lenses, my very first pair of eyeglasses were huge and bright pink…I shudder to look at...

Interview with Formalloy’s Melanie Lang on Directed Energy Deposition

When I met Melanie Lang at RAPID a lot of the buzz on the show floor was directed at her startup Formalloy. Formalloy has developed a metal deposition head that...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.


Print Services

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our 3DPrint.com.

You have Successfully Subscribed!