Although there are negative implications of 3D printing, it’s best not to forget about the great sides of the technique. And we have found a marvelous new application the technique: using it to create 3D printed mugshots. Anthropologist Mark Shriver of Pennsylvania State University has found a way to create a 3D printed mugshot from a DNA sample. This implies when a criminal would lose only one little hair at a crime scene in the future, the police will still be capable of creating a 3D mugshot.
So how did Shriver and his team come up with this innovation? They first took high-resolution 3D images of 592 volunteers, coming from a variety of countries. With these images they created 3D models, and they put more than 7,000 digital points of reference on the facial features. The team accurately recorded the position of those points and then used grids to measure whether the facial features of a person were different from the average.
They focused on changes thought to be involved in facial development and then studied whether there was any systematical facial variation with regard to sex, ancestry and genes. With these data, they were able to predict a 3D model of a person’s face, using only a DNA sample. They tested each of the respondents for 76 other genetic variations that cause facial mutations, after which the team found 24 variations in 20 genes that could predict the shape of someone’s face.
The team states: “Such predictive modeling could be forensically useful; for example, DNA left at crime scenes could be tested and faces predicted in order to help to narrow the pool of potential suspects. Further, our methods could be used to predict the facial features of descendants, deceased ancestors, and even extinct human species. In addition, these methods could prove to be useful diagnostic tools.”
As good as it sounds, the technique will not be used any time soon. Peter Claes of the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) writes that it could take a bunch of years before this technique will be implemented: “I believe that in five to 10 years’ time, we will be able to computationally predict a face.” That however does not mean Shriver will put a hold on his research, as he is only just refining the technique. There will be a next round of testing, where the team will use as many as 30,000 different points instead of 7,000 during this test.
Last year’s December, the Japanese police did something similar, but with crime scenes istead of mugshots. They created a 3D model of a crime scene, which took place in Tokyo 13 years ago. In late 2000, a family was murdered in their home, but the police had failed to identify any suspects. Using 3D printing techniques, the police was able to add another dimension to the search for the perpetrator. Because of 3D printing techniques, depth was added to the models of the crime scenes, helping viewers to visualize the crime scene on a more punctual level.
The Police Department from Roswell is also working with 3D printers. In January, we got the news that the department came up with a so-called Faro 3D scanner to scan entire environments during major accidents and crime scenes. Simple idea: it’s a 3D scanner, which uses a laser to capture information. The data can be opened on a computer and what will appear is a 3D image of the whole crime scene. The scanner enables the team to document scenes within the accuracy of a couple of millimeters. Roswell Police Detective Scott Stevenson thinks the invention could speed up the investigation process, but it’s not yet clear if and when other US police departments will start using this technique.
Image credits: Heather Dewey-Hagborg, an information and art artist also working on 3D printed models of a person’s face.