31 January 2012
AR goggles make crime scene investigation a desk job
CRIME scene investigators could one day help solve murders without leaving the office. A pair of augmented reality glasses could allow local police to virtually tag objects in a crime scene, and build a clean record of the scene in 3D video before evidence is removed for processing.
The system, being developed by Oytun Akman and colleagues at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, consists of a head-mounted display receiving 3D video from a pair of attached cameras controlled by a laptop carried in a backpack. This arrangement lets the wearer see their surroundings as normal while also allowing them to overlay virtual objects, which are placed using hand gestures.
A menu appears to float over the left hand when the wearer holds it in front of them. Moving the left hand back and forth selects from a variety of tools, while the right hand serves as a pointer to tag objects in the scene, like blood spatter or bullet holes. The system stores the markers as part of a 3D model of the scene, which investigators can use to help their investigation. It may also be admissible in court as evidence.
“The glasses allow the wearer to tag objects seen in a scene, like blood splatter or bullet holes”
If the person wearing the glasses requires assistance, they can contact someone back in the lab who can watch their video stream, speak to the wearer through a headset and place markers in the scene using a mouse and keyboard. This would also allow a police officer to take the first look around a crime scene.
Akman says that testers in a mock crime scene did not initially like being watched. “They felt intimidated or disturbed by having someone else behind their head,” he says. “But then they got used to it and liked the idea.”
Akman and his colleagues now plan to test the system in a real-world crime scene with the help of the Dutch police and will also investigate the possibility of using the glasses as a tool for training new crime scene investigators. They will present their work at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference in Bellevue, Washington, next month.
Dean Northfield, an imaging officer at the UK’s West Yorkshire police, says the glasses could help police forces make the best use of their limited resources, but adds that investigators might resist changes to their current work methods. “It would need testing against what is being done now to actually see what the benefits are,” he says.
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