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Video: Allowing jurors to see crime scenes in VR

23 July 2021

Researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) have published a study focused on using virtual reality (VR) in the courtroom.

The technology would allow jurors to view scenes of the crime (for murder cases or car accidents) without having to leave the courtroom but while giving the best point of view to make the right decision.

The researchers said VR in the courtroom would effectively drop jurors into the middle of these situations prior to levying judgment but with far more details about the scenes involved.

In simulating VR for the courtroom, a hit-and-run scene was reconstructed with a laser scanner, after which the verdicts of jurors that used the 3D VR headsets were compared with verdicts from those that used only photographs from the scene.

The result was the jurors were better able to recall spatial accuracy and more consistent verdicts in cases using the interactive technology.

"Virtual reality also required significantly less effort than using photographs to piece together the sequence of events," said Andrew Cunningham, UniSA's Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments.

Those using a 3D headset were 9.5 times more likely to choose the same verdict than those that solely used photographs, where jurors were split almost 50/50 on the verdict.

"Participants who were immersed in the scene were more likely to correctly remember the location of the car in relation to the victim at the time of the accident, whereas it was difficult for people to visualize the scene from still images,” Cunningham said. "This provides unequivocal evidence that interactive technology leads to fairer and more consistent verdicts, and indeed could be the future of courtrooms.”

While VR could lead to more interactive and realistic impression on the scene, VR headsets could be expensive, especially for some districts struggling with budgets or those in remote locations.

UniSA said VR has been used in the courtroom before, specifically in 2019 when a Bavarian State criminal office created an interactive scene of Auschwitz concentration camp to aid in the prosecution’s case in a war crimes trial.

The full research can be found in the journal Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession.

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