"What is your one purpose in life?"

"To explode, of course!"

"Currently, police robots simply destroy suspicious packages - along with any fingerprint evidence. RAFFE consists of a small box with a heating element, cartridge of Superglue and short pipe. Using remote controls, police direct the robot to the package and heat the Superglue in the box. The glue produces fumes that are piped towards the package. The fumes, containing cyanoacrylate, react with the oils and moisture in the fingerprints, turning them white. The fingerprints can then be photographed using the robot's high-definition camera prior to the safe disposal of the package."

12 Responses:

  1. alisgray says:

    Having done some cyanoacrylic fingerprint raising, I wonder at the effectiveness. It takes a while and needs a closed container, unless you're using a fuming wand, and then you have to aim the sucker. Photographing them without dusting them first isn't exactly cake, either. Using an RC rover for this would probably a hella lot of training.

    Very cool story all the same. Thanks.

    • naturalborn says:

      Since there aren't any standards for fingerprint testing, that doesn't really matter. All that's needed is a piece of evidence for a 'fingerprint expert' to point to when he says he got a match.

      • alisgray says:

        well, not exactly, no. it does sometimes seem that way. the photos in the article don't show any ridge detail at all that I can see. if you *could get good shots, you could beam them right over to AFIS to look for matches, then you get the fingerprint expert in on the goods.

        • naturalborn says:

          No denying that fingerprints can be good evidence, however the popular perception is that fingerprints are always 100% definitive, and some recent studies done where fingerprint data was sent to labs showed quite horrifyingly bad results. Chances are it's fairly routine for innocent people to get railroaded based on faulty fingerprint analysis.

          • alisgray says:

            It has happened, to be sure. In the last ten years, groups like ASCLAD have become more powerful and more regulated, and technical and scientific working groups have been established for several of the forensic sciences (including latent prints) to give the law firmer guidelines and avoid that sort of gross miscarriage of justice.

            What's your field?

            • naturalborn says:

              I don't have any professional experience in forensics, just an interest in applying the occasional blind test to see how well our evidence gathering systems really are. (I'm a programmer professionally.)

  2. kyzoku says:

    Wow, it's not everyday you see people making Dark Star references.

  3. coldacid says:

    Remind me to burn off my fingerprints before my next trip to the airport.

  4. lars_larsen says:

    What if the "suitcase" is already white?

  5. kiad says:

    Did you see this? First Robot War Sacrifice


    BURLINGTON, Mass. (Reuters) - A U.S. robot manufacturer on Monday hailed the destruction of one of its units in Iraq and said it showed how valuable the machines have become for the U.S. military.

    iRobot Corporation learned last week from the Pentagon that one of its units, called a PackBot, was "destroyed in action" for the first time. Its destruction meant the life of a U.S. soldier may well have been saved, the company said.

    "It was a special moment -- a robot got blown up instead of a person," said iRobot CEO Colin Angle.