3D Crime Scene Investigation

Virtual Environments Group, University of Wisconsin-Madison

3D capture technology has been shown to be a powerful tool in crime scene investigations, yet this technology has not seen widespread adoption across policing units. Despite the apparent efficiencies, no concrete study has taken place that measures evidence gathering outcomes between traditional and 3D capture methods. By combining 3D capture technology, computer reconstruction algorithms and Virtual Reality (VR) presentation mechanisms, we can improve the accuracy and documentation, lower time and cost, reduce risks associated with this kind of investigation and enable new means of investigations.

In this project, the Living Environments Lab at the University of Wisconsin Madison will partner with the Dane County Sheriff Office to test and compare different 3D capture methods for crime scenes. This project will utilize a forensic training location to create artificial crime scenes which will be digitized with different 3D capturing methods. This controlled test environment enables a baseline comparison of different techniques while data from real crime scenes will be captured simultaneously.

The ability for crime scene investigators to visualize and analyze 3D captured crime scenes has also proven to be a challenge. The project team has found VR technologies to be a powerful tool for analysis of 3D captured data in other domains and aim to extend these techniques for crime scene investigation for this project. While previous efforts to use VR may have been cost prohibitive for these types of endeavors, the recent push for consumer grade VR enable these types of efforts to have the possibility of widespread adoption.

Dr. Weimer, a renowned expert in public policy, will consult in the cost/benefit analysis for different crime scene investigation techniques. Metrics, such as density and quantity of data points, time to completion, and data accuracy will be used alongside focus groups who will provide requirement definitions, opinions, and validations of given techniques.

Upon the successful completion of this project, we will deliver a formal cost/benefit analysis for the use of 3D capture technology compared to traditional means when investigating crime scenes. We will also provide an evaluation of how the extension of VR technologies impact the presentation and analysis of 3D captured crime scenes. We believe this project will not only enable crime scene investigators to analyze scenes in less time and with greater accuracy, but will also pave the way for new types of computer mediated investigations.