Augmented reality at the crime scene improves communication between emergency services – 31 July 2016

31 July 2016

The ‘On the spot’ project has shown that augmented reality techniques can improve information-sharing between the police and other emergency services at a crime scene. Augmented reality techniques enable colleagues conducting investigations at crime scenes to communicate remotely with experts. Users particularly value the fact that they can share what they know in real time.

On the spot

The fire service, police and forensic services regularly work at the same crime scene. In such cases, it is important to preserve evidence as far as possible. Effective collaboration is essential in this. Two and a half years ago, TPM’s Systems Engineering and Simulation research group started its ‘On the spot’ project. The aim was to investigate whether serious gaming techniques can help in sharing information and provide support in accumulating shared situational awareness, an essential precondition for decision-making processes.

Drugs lab

Research was conducted using constructed scenarios. These included a reconstruction of a drugs laboratory in which the investigations were carried out with and without augmented reality techniques. The results have been positive, says Stephan Lukosch: “Having access to a remote expert is proving to be a real benefit, and there is also a greater focus on detail.” But of course there have also been some issues, including the augmented reality glasses, which did not always prove to be especially practical. Lukosch: “It provides only limited vision, preventing a proper overview of the crime scene. The technology needs some serious improvements.”

Further research?

Although the results of ‘On the spot’ are extremely promising, further research is necessary. The issues include the fact that the technology, such as the augmented reality glasses, is a limiting factor and needs to be further developed in order to enable real progress with the application. There are also problems with security and privacy, not only for the general public, but also the investigators themselves. It can feel awkward when a colleague observing remotely sees you accidentally erase evidence. A smaller-scale, follow-up study is currently in the pipeline. Called “AR Pro”, it aims to make basic briefing information available to the community police officer by smartphone.

Researchers Stephan Lukosch, Heide Lukosch and Dragos Datcu have worked on the ‘On the spot’ project. The full results of the project have been published in the prestigious CSCW journal. The two-year ‘On the spot’ project ran until December 2015. It was funded by the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) and the Ministry of Security and Justice.


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