Did you watch Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) a whole lot back in the day when it was all the rage? Well, chances are you would have noticed how swiftly the cases in there are solved, all within the hour with some time to spare for commercials as well. Real life sleuthing is not that easy, however, and it might take more than just a single hour for all of the pieces to fall into place together, even if you were to compress the timeline to a certain extent. Heck, some investigations might even take weeks or years, depending on the amount of evidence available (or the lack of it).
Well, with modern day smartphones arriving with their respective fingerprint readers, it goes without saying that there will be moments when the authorities need to access a smartphone's contents in order to obtain more clues to solving a particular crime. This is fine and dandy if the suspect is still alive, and blood flows through his or her veins. However, what happens when the suspect is dead?
A Michigan State University professor decided that it is possible to reconstruct all 10 fingers of a dead person using 3D printing technology, fingerprints included, in order to help out the police. It looks as though this particular situation has come about after Michigan police put in a request for 3D-printed replicas of a dead man's fingers, all in order to unlock his smartphone.
In a murder case, the respective officials have strong reasons to believe that there could be information on his handset that might provide 'breadcrumbs' to the killer. However, there are the hurdles of fingerprint recognition and a passcode to overcome first. The victim's body is apparently in an unfit state that would enable law enforcement to apply his finger on the phone's fingerprint reader.
Hence, the move of overlooking the smartphone manufacturer's help when it comes to doing so with expectations that such a request would not be entertained has driven the police to knock on the doors of a Michigan State University professor. As the result of this, the man's fingers, complete with fingerprints, were 3D printed.
This is made possible since the police were already in possession of the man's fingerprints from a previous arrest. Anil Jain and his PhD student Sunpreet Arora were then furnished with those to 3D print clones of all 10 fingers. Since the researchers were not sure just which particular finger could unlock the handset, they decided to cover all of the fingers with a thin layer of metallic particles in order for the handset to read the individual markings.
The police have already obtained these newly minted 3D creations, and according to Fusion, they are still in the process of testing them out and should take a few weeks to know the results. There are limits to how far 3D-printed fingers can help in such cases, since some handsets will require the passcode after some time, it might not even help in the investigation at the end of the day. As we do not have any information on the make and model of the victim's smartphone, one can only speculate to the effectiveness of this latest tool in the police's investigative arsenal.