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Virtual reality (VR), a long-awaited development in video technology, may have finally come of age in 2016. Graphics have evolved from poor pixelations to fully-formed “virtual realities,” and mobile and gaming-based virtual reality headsets that hit the consumer market fared extremely well.

VR’s rise in popularity raises some key considerations for legal experts about the technology’s potential use in courtrooms, especially its uses as a potential illustrative aid for trial attorneys. What are the potential implications of immersing jurors in a VR-enabled scenario?

Gary Marchant, professor of law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, explained to a crowd at Wolters Kluwer’s ELM User Conference in Orlando that virtual reality technology could help attorneys recreate scenes for jurors in ways that could help them get a complete understanding of a matter. But because the technology is advancing well beyond the speed of legal regulation, it’s hard to predict how courtrooms will be able to regulate potential biases formed by VR recreations, especially when they involve human programmers to create.

“How do you make sure it’s used in a reliable way?” he asked the room.

Researchers at Staffordshire University’s Center of Archeology and Forensic and Crime Science this year earned a grant to explore new ways that VR technology can be used to recreate and present crime scenes and accidents for trial. Caroline Sturdy Colls, head of the project at Staffordshire, explained that while they hope to expand on existing legal applications of virtual reality, many such technologies already exist.

“A number of novel, digital non-invasive methods now exist which have the potential to increase search efficiency and accuracy, permit access to difficult and/or dangerous environments, create a more accurate record of buried or concealed evidence and provide more effective means of presenting evidence in court,” Colls said.

Many of these technologies are currently being employed on a smaller scale to help recreate crime scenes. 11Alive reports that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) currently employs an imaging tool that can offer jurors images of the perpetrator’s potential view from the suspect’s specific height. The tool has been used in some closed-door grand jury presentments, but has not yet been used in court. Some companies hope to capitalize on VR’s potential expansion into the courtroom. Atlanta-based company Utility launched a VR scene recreation tool, Smart Scene 360, earlier this year to provide attorneys and courts with 360 degree digital imaging of a scene that can be projected into a VR headset.

But while there is a clear potential application of VR technology for criminal trials, the budgeting realities of both criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys means that they probably won’t be the first to benefit from VR in the courtroom. Carrie Leonetti, professor of law at University of Oregon School of Law, told CityLab that she imagines the technology will make its way into courtrooms through civil trials, where the expenses for VR recreations can be passed on to clients.

Leonetti focuses her research in this area, but she’s perhaps less impressed by the potential impacts of VR in the courtroom. She told CityLab that although VR has the potential to really expand courtroom illustrative aid technology, it is likely to become just as mundane as typical charts and graphs in the future.

“I think there will eventually be a tipping point between VR being this awe-inspiring thing and it being something like a PowerPoint,” she said.

Virtual reality (VR), a long-awaited development in video technology, may have finally come of age in 2016. Graphics have evolved from poor pixelations to fully-formed “virtual realities,” and mobile and gaming-based virtual reality headsets that hit the consumer market fared extremely well.

VR’s rise in popularity raises some key considerations for legal experts about the technology’s potential use in courtrooms, especially its uses as a potential illustrative aid for trial attorneys. What are the potential implications of immersing jurors in a VR-enabled scenario?

Gary Marchant, professor of law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, explained to a crowd at Wolters Kluwer’s ELM User Conference in Orlando that virtual reality technology could help attorneys recreate scenes for jurors in ways that could help them get a complete understanding of a matter. But because the technology is advancing well beyond the speed of legal regulation, it’s hard to predict how courtrooms will be able to regulate potential biases formed by VR recreations, especially when they involve human programmers to create.

“How do you make sure it’s used in a reliable way?” he asked the room.

Researchers at Staffordshire University’s Center of Archeology and Forensic and Crime Science this year earned a grant to explore new ways that VR technology can be used to recreate and present crime scenes and accidents for trial. Caroline Sturdy Colls, head of the project at Staffordshire, explained that while they hope to expand on existing legal applications of virtual reality, many such technologies already exist.

“A number of novel, digital non-invasive methods now exist which have the potential to increase search efficiency and accuracy, permit access to difficult and/or dangerous environments, create a more accurate record of buried or concealed evidence and provide more effective means of presenting evidence in court,” Colls said.

Many of these technologies are currently being employed on a smaller scale to help recreate crime scenes. 11Alive reports that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) currently employs an imaging tool that can offer jurors images of the perpetrator’s potential view from the suspect’s specific height. The tool has been used in some closed-door grand jury presentments, but has not yet been used in court. Some companies hope to capitalize on VR’s potential expansion into the courtroom. Atlanta-based company Utility launched a VR scene recreation tool, Smart Scene 360, earlier this year to provide attorneys and courts with 360 degree digital imaging of a scene that can be projected into a VR headset.

But while there is a clear potential application of VR technology for criminal trials, the budgeting realities of both criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys means that they probably won’t be the first to benefit from VR in the courtroom. Carrie Leonetti, professor of law at University of Oregon School of Law , told CityLab that she imagines the technology will make its way into courtrooms through civil trials, where the expenses for VR recreations can be passed on to clients.

Leonetti focuses her research in this area, but she’s perhaps less impressed by the potential impacts of VR in the courtroom. She told CityLab that although VR has the potential to really expand courtroom illustrative aid technology, it is likely to become just as mundane as typical charts and graphs in the future.

“I think there will eventually be a tipping point between VR being this awe-inspiring thing and it being something like a PowerPoint,” she said.