Lawyers and law firms shocked the industry with how adeptly they implemented remote solutions during the pandemic. Historically considered a change-resistant industry, observers are now wondering if virtual reality (VR) will make a swift entrance into courtrooms and law firm operations.
VR presents an interesting opportunity in the courtroom, allowing juries to partake in a simulation of experiences that brings them closer to events being discussed. Depending on an expert’s practice area, some consider VR a powerful tool in the aid of testimony, helping relay complex information and factual issues.
VR uses computer-generated 3D environments to provide an interactive experience, allowing users to simulate experiences in virtual worlds. The use cases for VR have most notably been in the gaming and entertainment industries, but more recently VR has been used for marketing, healthcare, occupational safety and more. VR differs from augmented reality (AR), which brings computer-generated images into the user’s physical environment. AR augments the existing environment and VR creates an entirely new one. Given the growing popularity, power and added ways to explain complex concepts to neophytes, the case for VR entering the courtroom becomes clear.
VR in the courtroom can provide immersive experiences, deepening the understanding of specific events or information. There are also ways for VR to bring remote experts into the courtroom that otherwise would be unable to attend. AR is the most common tool for this, allowing for augmented images of an expert to take the stand. This is especially helpful for victim testimony in which the experience inside the courtroom is traumatizing for the victim.
VR headsets provide a first-hand experience of boundless locations, all generated by a computer. A forensic expert could utilize a three-dimensional space inside of VR to recreate a crime scene and elaborate on their findings. Similarly, accidents can be reconstructed as a method of recreating the experience in “real-time,” providing a detailed view to the jury.
Given the emergence of VR in the medical industry, it makes sense the same technology is being explored to aid the testimony of medical experts. VR offers realistic alternatives, allowing users to inspect computer-generated cadavers by interacting with virtual anatomy. Ultimately, VR facilitates microscopic examination of every piece of the body in the same way they would an actual cadaver without the need to interact or destroy the body. In the courtroom, this can be used by an expert to bring attention to specific body parts or recreate medical problems or injuries. As VR becomes more integrated into the courtroom, there are several ways medical experts can use the technology during trial.
Developments in the area of VR in law are still very new and have only recently been explored in a meaningful way. Recently in Broward County Florida, a motion was filed requesting the judge to permit the use of virtual reality goggles by the jury. Ken Padowitz, the defense lawyer, hopes to allow the jury to take a more experiential approach by submerging them into the alleged crime that took place.
In this Broward County case, the defendant faces a 30-year prison sentence if convicted of first-degree attempted murder. Padowitz wants to use the VR presentation to demonstrate his client did not intentionally hit the victim with his car. The jurors will have a 360-degree view of the scene of the accident, allowing them to view it from all perspectives. Jack Suchocki, president of Eyewitness Animations, the design firm hired to create the custom 3D environment, spoke on the use of technology, “One of the benefits of this is we can actually record what each juror is looking at. That would ensure each juror is focusing on the evidence, not the technology.”.
We expect the use of both VR and AR to expand in courtrooms and even in meetings between experts and attorneys. While the change may not be as fast as the roll-out of video conferences during the pandemic, the successful implementation of technology over the past couple of years paves the way for lawyers, law firms and courtrooms to consider adding AR and VR in a more favorable light.
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