Virtual Reality Robots Will Give the Public Unprecedented Access to Crime Scenes

Dr. Chowbury's VR Robot
The emerging field of 360-degree video, and it's close partner, virtual reality, have many implications that stretch far beyond the world of entertainment. From video games to Hollywood, virtual reality promises to revolutionize modern entertainment. But what many people don't yet know is that virtual reality has a promising future in a field that it certainly wasn't intended to impact - crime scene investigations.

Virtual Reality Robots to Record Crime Scenes

New developments in the field of virtual reality point towards the use of virtual reality robots at crime scenes. Essentially, the idea is that a robot equipt with virtual reality technology can make its way through a crime scene capturing each and every piece of undisturbed evidence before a full investigation begins. Then, when it's time for the prosecution, both parties can show the jury through the virtual crime scene while making their case.

These robots are already being developed by researchers across the globe. The set-back with this emerging technology is the cost of building a sufficient robot, and supplying an entire jury with virtual reality glasses. Virtual reality systems such as HTC Vive cost around eight-hundred dollars on the market and require a console or computer that will cooperate with the virtual reality system. That doesn't even take the cost of the robot into account.

However, Durham University researcher Dr. Mehzeb Chowbury is developing a virtual reality robot that can bring the crime scene to the courtroom for under four hundred dollars. The robot, which was inspired by Nasa's Curiosity Mars rover, records 360-degree video that could be played back on any computer or smartphone with an accompanying app. With base-level virtual reality gear such as Google cardboard (which costs about fifteen dollars), the jury would be able to view the crime scene at a significantly lower cost.

Virtual Reality Crime Scenes Will Give Juries Unprecedented Courtroom Access

The use of virtual reality will give the public unprecedented access into previously restricted zones. At the same time, it would provide a less-biased, real-life presentation of the crime scene. Instead of a video or presentation of the crime scene deigned to persuade the jury one way or another, virtual reality provides an undisturbed, pure view of the scene, which allows the jury to make conclusions based on what they see themselves.

Computer-Generated Crime Scenes Will Recreate Gruesome Crime Scenes
Virtual Reality will allow juries to see crime scenes for themselves.

To make things less gruesome for the jury, this same technology could be used to re-create computer-generated crime scenes. In fact, this is already being done by virtual reality pioneers such as Nonny de la Pena. Pena has accurately recreated crime scenes of the past by placing audio recordings over 360-degree video, allowing the user to jump into the fray and experience what happened for themselves. A recent project of hers recreated Trayvon Martin shooting using audio from police.

Beyond the courtroom, new technologies such as Google's Project Tango can render images of terrains in 3-D. Eventually, this sort of technology could replace crime scene sketches altogether, as we move from traditionally drawn sketches to full-fledged 3-D re-creations of a scene.

As we move deeper into the age of virtual technology, crime scene investigation may become more and more like the sci-fi programs we see on TV.

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