Although the most common use for VR is still gaming and entertainment, the medium is also completely changing the criminal justice system from top to bottom.
In the past half-decade, we’ve explored many interesting, entertaining, and educational use cases for VR. Now, sheriffs in Monmouth County, NJ are being trained using a new training facility incorporates a virtual reality simulator, the VirTra V-300, with physical training. The V-300 allows for officers to experience criminal, and potentially dangerous, situations.
This kind of training helps officers learn to react both more quickly and efficiently, hopefully reducing fatal officer-involved shootings of which there have been more than 500 this year.
“The main objective is to have the officers go in and be submersed in different scenarios so they have that split-second decision-making capability,” said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden to CBS. “And not only split-second decision-making capability on the use of force, but de-escalation — how to handle different scenarios, how to provide commands so that we have positive outcomes along the way.”
The topic of law enforcement’s relationship to the public has been explored in several different VR experiences, including last year’s Perspective; Chapter 2: The Misdemeanor.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has also added the simulator to its training regimen. But the use of VR in the criminal justice system doesn’t end with officer preparedness.
Virtual Rehab is a startup that would help prisoners return to daily life, and is aiming to reduce the rate of recidivism in the U.S. Using Virtual Rehab, prisoners are said to develop four major skills: formal education, vocational job training, and psychological and correctional services rehabilitation.
VR is also being explored as a feature of the courtroom. Researchers at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, Switzerland used the Oculus Rift to reconstruct crime scenes for jurors to be presented with at trials for the opportunity to walk through crime scenes similar to how lawyers will present photographs and video evidence.
Carrie Leonetti, an associate professor at the University of Oregon School of Law who studies the impact of emerging technology on US trial procedure, foresees a moment when we collectively stop viewing this technology as a novelty and treat it as a functional tool.
“I think there will eventually be a tipping point between VR being this awe-inspiring thing and it being something like a PowerPoint,”Leonetti said to VU Dream.
And as more parties incorporate tools like VirTra, it’s safe to assume that the virtual impacts will be felt in a very real way.