Culture

Police turn to AR to investigate crime scenes

Dutch officers are testing an augmented-reality system that's used to catch criminals instead of Pokemon creatures.

Anyone who's played Pokemon Go knows how much fun augmented reality can be, but Dutch police are turning to AR for a serious purpose -- training officers to better understand and process crime scenes.

To use the prototype system, Dutch police officers wear body cameras that stream video to forensic experts, who then virtually annotate the crime scene so the officers can best document evidence, take samples and even look for a hiding suspect. The officers view the notes on a smartphone or head-mounted device.

The idea is that the first officer to a crime scene might not always be the best person to investigate it. While the AR setup gives the officers extra expert insight on how to process what's found there, it also helps limit the chances of accidentally contaminating evidence.

Dragoş Datcu, principal researcher at AR company Twnkls, and his colleagues at the Delft University of Technology have been working on the system for five years. They are now collaborating with Dutch police, the Netherlands Forensic Institute and the Dutch Fire Brigade to perfect it. Police will be able to buy the system in six months, according to Datcu.

"We've tried the system and it really adds a lot of value to many different areas of policing," Nick Koeman,
innovation adviser from the National Police of the Netherlands, told New Scientist.

Video simulations of the AR program in action are impressive, and could eventually be used to re-create a crime scene for a jury. But legal challenges would be inevitable the first time the new technology were to be used as evidence, a professor of criminal justice told New Scientist.