In Brief
  • This new AR system allows police officers to harness the knowledge of multiple experts at the scene of an investigation even if those experts are thousands of miles away.
  • This AR system for police work is just one more example of the technology being used outside of gaming, with others using AR to improve healthcare and even fashion.

Augmented reality (AR) systems have long been used in gaming, but advocates have always insisted that they could do so much more, and they were right. In recent years, VR/AR systems have improved everything from neurosurgery to fashion, and now we have one for police work.

The Dutch police force, the Netherlands Forensic Institute, and the Dutch Fire Brigade are experimenting with an AR system developed by the Delft University of TechnologyThe system allows an officer to harness the knowledge of multiple experts without them needing to actually be present at the scene of an investigation.

Footage from a body cam on the officer is relayed to the experts, who can then provide clues and suggestions to the officer via notes that appear on a smartphone or heads-up display. This system could reduce the potential for contamination in crime scenes and make it possible for the most qualified expert to weigh in on a scene even if they are thousands of miles away.

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Dragos Datcu

The complete system is expected to be available in six months, and while it could prove very useful for examining crime scenes and gathering evidence, it won’t be used to actively make arrests in the field — the notes and AR visuals have been found to be too distracting by the officers testing it.

A system like this one could one day be used to recreate crime scenes in court, but before that could happen, the technicalities of accepting AR evidence will need to be worked out by legislators. Until then, this new system will help officers in the first steps of an investigation while traditional methods remain in place for the rest of the process.