Is the Oculus Rift headset poised to become a game-changer in the courtroom, offering juries a way to evaluate evidence in greater detail than ever before? According to new research, "forensic holodecks" (yep, that's a Star Trek reference) that reconstruct crime scenes could soon become valuable courtroom tools.
New Scientist reports:
Over the last few years, investigators have begun deploying sophisticated technology that captures 3D information about a crime scene. This can range from using lasers to map the entire scene to using MRI and CT scanners to get a detailed picture of people's injuries. However, when the case gets to court, a lot gets discarded.
"We have detailed measurements and all this 3D information, but then we hand it over on paper, and that comes with a loss of information," says Lars Ebert at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Zurich, Switzerland, who works with police to collect evidence subsequently presented to judges and prosecutors.
In some cases, 3D information is vital. Take gun crime. Conventionally, bullet trajectories are presented in 2D – on paper. "What you have is a line on paper, and it's difficult to get an idea of how it moved in space," says Ebert. "But the second you see it in 3D, you know where it originated, where it goes, how close all the people and objects are."
Ebert and his team turned to gaming headset Oculus Rift to craft a 3D crime-scene recreation, with an emphasis on the bullet trajectory; cops who'd witnessed the actual shooting praised its accuracy.
One benefit of a digital reconstruction is that it offers the opportunity to remove details as well as add them – something that might be useful for jury members presented with a potentially traumatic scene, or one with distracting and irrelevant details. But this could have an unintended effect, cautions Damian Schofield at the State University of New York in Oswego, who develops digital reconstructions. "Think of a murder scene: whether you view it from the point of view of the murderer, the victim or a third person will totally change your perception of what's happening." However, he doesn't think this will halt the technology's adoption in court.
That said, the article also notes that "before the forensic holodeck can be used in court, Ebert's team will have to ensure it does accurately represent 3D environments."
The short video below demonstrates the technology in action, though the 1980s-style guitar wailings on the soundtrack do a fair amount to negate its more futuristic elements...
Read the full scientific paper at Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology here.
Image via New Scientist.
Via Laughing Squid.