Geo Week News

July 30, 2012

3D forensic work highlighted in Aurora coverage

There’s not much I dislike more than the media feeding frenzy that surrounds tragedy. The vast array of news options all smell pageviews and eyeballs in a story like the Aurora movie theater shooting, and they look to sensationalize any and all angles that might bring in a few more clicks or ticks on the ratings dial. And yet here I am finding a 3D angle.

First and foremost, let me register my profound objection to CNN’s decision to label the event “Massacre in Theater Nine.” Like it’s some cheap slasher flick. That’s embarrassing for us as a society, if you ask me. 

However, I came across a report from Anderson Cooper that shines a little light on our corner of the world here in 3D data capture. First, give it a watch:


Yes, they’re essentially picking up on a CBS broadcast, but I couldn’t find the original video of that. Most importantly, listen to the endorsement handed out for 3D data capture: “special equipment to try to recreate what occurred” and “it’s powerful in front of a jury” and “extremely useful when there is some doubt as to what really happened.” Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself. 

But why does the unidentified guy in the studio say you can “collect up to 30 million points of reference”? Heck, that’s like 30 seconds of scanning with a phase-based scanner! Is he just picking a number out of thin air? I’m guessing he’s just passing along a tidbit of information he found and picked a number he thought sounded big, but I could be wrong.

To learn more about ARAS 360, since that was the program he seemed to be speaking about specifically, I gave them a call. They’re located in Kamloops, British Columbia, and were founded in 2010 by Mike Kennedy and Mike Greenfield. Unlike a lot of CAD software for accident recreation, they didn’t start out in 2D and move to 3D – they’ve always been nothing but 3D. And they weren’t actually involved in the Aurora investigation, but were referred by a customer, Hal Sherman, that works with CBS on crime scene consultation as a retired NYPD officer.

Pretty sweet that they got to be the “example” of this kind of technology.

Talking to operations manager Ricci Krizmanich, she said users bring in data from just about any measuring device, including total stations, which they feature most prominently, including a package you can buy with a Nikon total station, but also Leica and Faro laser scanners, she mentioned specifically. 

Here’s their page labelled “Total Station Download,” which gives you some indication that most organizations they’re working with haven’t invested in laser scanners yet. However, they mention you can import your “points file” and “photogrammetry points” and “as many point sets as you like.” It may be slightly easier said than done.

Maybe they haven’t seen the size of some of the point clouds that are being created nowadays…

Anyway, the bigger picture here is yet more progress into the mainstream for 3D data collection. We saw a similar breakthrough in the UK in the case of the murdered MI6 agent, and this may end up being something of a watershed moment for laser scanning and forensic documentation in the US. Police officers take a ton of stock in the work their peers are doing, and this kind of validation in a high-profile case could go a long way. 

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