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Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

  • George Putic

Scientists at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Zurich, Switzerland, are developing technologies that can help police investigators, judges and lawyers better visualize crime scenes and even perform virtual autopsies.

The Oculus Rift headset, used for video games, coupled with specially developed software called Forensic Holodeck, re-creates crime scenes using hand-held 3-D scanners. Investigators use the 3-D images to reconstruct the actual crime based on witness accounts and recordings from surveillance cameras.

In a recent case, the technology helped prosecutors prove a gunman’s actions, leading to his conviction.

Radiologist Steffen Ross of the Zurich institute said that with the equipment, "we scan the crime scene and we are also able to scan the dead body, if there is a dead body involved, and then we can put all the data together in the computer and create a virtual crime scene, which is a 3-D model of the crime scene.”

The software even reconstructs bullet trajectories, represented by red and yellow bars.

“We were able to have a much better look at the trajectories of the projectiles, than we were able to see it in a two-dimensional manner,” Ross said.

Another new technology developed at the institute is a robot called Virtobot, which forensic scientists can use to perform virtual autopsies in great detail.

Institute scientist Robert Breitbeck said the system provides a 3-D model of the human body, inside and out.

“We can scan the skin with the pattern injury in color and true to scale so we can store it, and later we can combine it with 3-D data, which the police scan together with us," Breitbeck said. "And with this 3-D data, we have a basis [with which] we can do the 3-D reconstructions or visualizations of murder cases or traffic accidents.”

Both systems are already being used in several countries around the world.

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