Jurors using VR in the courtroom - Main 1

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Study participants serving as jurors who viewed the scene through a virtual reality headset were 9.5 times more likely to choose the same verdict

Quick read

➨ A compelling use case for virtual reality could be to aid jurors in visualising the scene of a crime
➨ The results from a recent study were promising, including better recall, spatial accuracy and more consistent verdicts
➨ Virtual reality could complement site visits in the future

The story

Virtual reality has all sorts of potential, from training surgeons to testing products. One little known use case is helping jurors in a courtroom to visualise and understand the scene of a crime.

The immersive technology has precedence in the courtroom internationally, with the most famous example when the Bavarian State criminal office created an interactive experience of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp to aid the prosecution’s case in a war crimes trial.

More recently, a new study published last month by the University of South Australia provides evidence that using virtual reality in the courtroom, to put jurors in a recreated crime scene or the location of an accident, could be highly beneficial to the justice process.

As part of the study, a team of University of South Australia researchers, legal professionals, police and forensic scientists simulated a hit-and-run scene in virtual reality.

They reconstructed the events with a laser scanner to compare verdicts between study participants using virtual reality headsets and those relying on photographs from the scene.

The results were promising, according to the University of South Australia, including better recall, spatial accuracy and more consistent verdicts in the case of the ‘jurors’ (30 study participants) using virtual reality.

Dr Andrew Cunningham, from the the University of South Australia’s Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments, adds: “Virtual reality also required significantly less effort than using photographs to piece together the sequence of events.”

Study participants viewing the scene through a virtual reality headset were 9.5 times more likely (86.67%) to choose the same verdict, death by dangerous driving, than the group who relied on photographs, who were split 47/53% between verdicts of careless driving and dangerous driving.

Jurors using VR in the courtroom - Main 2
Dr Carolin Reichherzer simulating a hit-and-run scene viewed through a 3D headset

‘More likely to correctly remember’

Dr Cunningham says: “Participants who were immersed in the scene were more likely to correctly remember the location of the car in relation to the victim at the time of the accident, whereas it was difficult for people to visualise the scene from still images.”

“This provides unequivocal evidence that interactive technology leads to fairer and more consistent verdicts, and indeed could be the future of courtrooms.”

Lead researcher Dr Carolin Reichherzer says site visits are still the gold standard in providing juries with a realistic impression of a scene, but they also have their drawbacks: “They are expensive—especially in remote locations—and in some cases the site itself has changed, making accurate viewings impossible.”

Find out more about the study from Dr Cunningham in the video below.

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Images: University of South Australia