Cops 3D-Printed a Dead Guy's Finger to Unlock His Phone

Cops in Michigan 3D-printed a dead guy's fingers to unlock his phone.

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3D printing isn't just the inspiration behind a classic Portlandia episode. Though the practice still hasn't quite achieved household name status, the synthesizing of three-dimensional objects is now an extremely common occurrence. The future is cool and/or scary, depending on who you ask. But for police in Michigan, the future has provided a previously improbable method for getting into someone's phone even after they're dead.

Michigan State University professor Anil Jain was approached by law enforcement officers in June who needed help unlocking a dead man's phone, Fusion's Rose Eveleth reports. Though Jain couldn't provide specifics due to the case still being open, he did reveal that a man had been murdered and that police believe clues regarding the identity of the killer are available on the device. 

Instead of taking a request to the phone's manufacturer, the cops have asked Jain and his PhD student Sunpreet Arora to 3D print makeshift fingers in an effort to unlock the phone. To do so, Jain's lab is using fingerprints from the victim stemming from a previous arrest.

"We don't know which finger the suspect used," Arora told Fusion Thursday. "We think it's going to be the thumb or index finger—that's what most people use—but we have all 10." Though the fingers have been printed, the lab still has to put all 10 of them through some understandably rigorous testing before handing them over to police.

The make and model of the victim's phone hasn't been revealed, leaving all your questions about Apple's recent updates to Touch ID unanswered. But one thing is pretty clear: stuff like this is cool, but could easily be abused by nefarious forces. So let's not go full Minority Report. There's enough going on already.

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