Jurors could use the RV to visit crime scenes and help them reach a verdict

Virtual reality headsets could end up becoming suitable court suits.

Virtual reality is often used for both entertainment and education, immersing people in computer-generated environments. Australian researchers are now studying the benefits that VR technology could offer in a courtroom, and the results so far are promising.

In a document published this May, researchers at the University of South Australia investigated whether the ability to inspect crime scenes in virtual reality could help juries make decisions in courtroom trials. Measuring the impact of seeing the same crime scene in VR or in a photo slideshow, they found that virtual reality led participants to a different and more coherent verdict than a photo-only one.

“We found that participants in VR were significantly more accurate in remembering the correct placement of test items,” the researchers wrote, noting that they were also better at remembering some narrative aspects. “Participants who saw the scene at [photograph] The reference mode was divided in its decision on the verdict, while RV participants made an almost unanimous decision. “


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The researchers built their experiment prototype using the Unity and a video game engine VIVE Pro Eye VR headphones. Scanning a simulated crime scene, they presented two groups of 15 participants with the same scenario: the consequences of a parking dispute between two people in which one died. While one group explored the scene in interactive virtual reality, the other was only given photographs to inspect.

“There were some reasons why we chose hit and run,” the researcher said Dr. Andrew Cunningham he told Mashable by email. “1. We modeled it after a mock crime of our forensic partners; 2. It was a situation with some ambiguity; 3. It was based on spatial understanding and interpretation; 4. It wasn’t too horrible / stressful for to the participants. “

The different ways in which the evidence was presented seemed to have a noticeable impact on the way participants understood and interpreted the information and on their subsequent verdicts. Of those who saw the scene in RV, 86.67% determined that the scene was a case of “dangerous driving death,” that is, 13 of the 15 in the group. Meanwhile, only 46.67 percent of participants who were photographed came to the same conclusion, with a slight majority of eight out of fifteen choosing the decision most “outraged by driving without proper care.”

“This experiment was developed with the input of forensic professionals but was nevertheless designed to be ambiguous,” the researchers wrote, stating that more investigations could be done using scenarios with objective truth. “The goal of this experiment was to identify how participants develop a narrative based on what they were presented with and how this further affects their decision-making.”

The interactivity of virtual reality allowed jurors to examine the crime scene in a way that made sense to them, helping them to consistently bring together the events of their minds. His ability to make participants see literally the defendant’s point of view was also particularly shocking, as six of the 15 people in the RV group specifically stated that this influenced their verdict. The fact that he was able to place himself in the position of the defendant caused a significant doubt about the defense’s argument that he had not been able to see the victim; RV participants determined that he really had a clear vision.

“The‘ Dangerous Driving Death ’verdict was 9.5 times more likely to be chosen by participants who saw the scene in RV,” the researchers wrote. “A possible explanation for this result may be the amount of information that can be presented in VR …. An immersive scene allows large amounts of information to be presented in a manageable way and participants took advantage of the exploration in a that he may have given more support to his mental model. “

The researchers further noted that virtual reality could be particularly useful for crime scenes involving reflective surfaces such as car mirrors, as photographs cannot be reliably captured. Cunningham told Mashable that while the laser scanning technique they used isn’t good for capturing glare, technology like Google’s LightField would live up to it.

Interestingly, participants who were shown the photographic evidence were also given the opportunity to see the virtual reality stage after concluding the experiment. At least one claimed he would change his initial and more lenient verdict, while others who chose a harsher sentence in that scenario gained even more confidence in his decision.

The virtual reality scenario had default locations to which users could “teleport,” as well as a free roaming option.
Credit: Andrew Cunningham / University of South Australia

While physical site visits are not uncommon in jury trials, RV reconstructions can reduce costs and address situations where excursions are not possible. The researchers felt that it would be useful to conduct experiments with a larger sample size of participants, in addition to allowing them to deliberate together as a real jury would.

“The cost of jury views is important; [it costs] thousands of dollars to transport the jury, the judge and the schedule, “Cunningham said.” Visions may also take place months after the event in different weather conditions, or the scene may have changed. “

A high-tech solution like virtual reality may seem expensive, but Cunningham pointed it out current laser scanners making the cost of digitizing a crime scene “negligible”. Scanning the crime scene also only took about four hours, time he believes could be reduced with experience.

“Police agencies are already scanning crime scenes as part of the investigation, so costs will also be reduced,” Cunningham said. “Forensic experts will recreate or scan scenes as well to analyze a scene (e.g., trace bullets) and this evidence can currently be presented in court as videos.”

While it seems that virtual reality technology would greatly help the legal process, Cunningham believes it will be more than a decade before the jury involves fixing headphones.

“I think the RV will be used first in investigations by police agencies and forensic analysts,” Cunningham said. “For the room, there’s still a long way to go before it’s used.”

Virtual reality is becoming more common and accessible to the general public, offering great advantages in many other areas. Still, it is still a relatively new technology and the judicial system is not exactly known to be an early adopter.

“Technology is getting to a point where it’s consumable, though [introducing it to a courtroom] it would require a progressive judge, “Cunningham said.” However, we introduced the technology to the judges of South Australia, and their way of bringing it was for the technology to arrive, which [it] will it will be used in the courtroom at some point in the future and we should understand the impact of technology to ensure the best results. “

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