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3D-Printed Crime Scenes Are Coming to a Courtroom Near You

The Roswell, NM police department takes the leap.

There's undeniably something captivating about looking at a crime scene. Similar to watching a train wreck, try walking by a block protected by police tape without doing a double-take. As the gargantuan viewership of shows like CSI or the popularity of P.D. James novels can attest to, people are obviously curious about crime, and possibly even more interested in how it's analyzed. There's even a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the CSI Effect, a "condition" that describes the ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on TV influences public perception.


Not every technology we see on crime shows are subject to fantasy though. As 3Ders points out, a police station in Roswell, New Mexico, recently acquired a Faro 3D scanner, which will allow investigators (and potentially courts) to access a 3D rendering of crime scenes&mdasha digitized, panoramic view of any area where something dastardly or unfortunate has gone down.

According to a news report (which can be watched below), the technology will be used by placing several touchpoints around a specified area where the 3D scanner will send laser signals, recording, and downloading the visual data to a computer in the process.

The Roswell Police Department claims the information will be accurate within a "couple millimeters" so that officers, judges and jury will have a "very accurate graphical representation of what the scene consists of." They believe this will be an improvement from the prior processes of preserving the scene using a standard camera. The device will cost the police force $86,000, but could feasibly prevent authorities and courts from making mistakes in their legal examination of crime.

Crime scenes have been the subject of artistic projects for literal centuries, as the photographs of Weegee or The Met's Album of Paris Crime Scenes 1853-1914 demonstrate. If Faro 3D scanners begin to get widely adopted by legal forces throughout the country, it will undoubtedly serve as inspiration for some interesting juxtapositions of real-world crime and creative interpretations of such happenings. The net art community, in particular, better pay attention.

If the cops can go through crime scenes like a digital bird, then how will this be flipped into something critical, exploratory, or just visually captivating? We imagine interactive, online tours through real crime scenes becoming a serious possibility. Here's a soundbite from the news report that seems like a readymade jump off point for artists who aren't keen on the po-po: "The technology allows the police to manipulate the image any way they want… "

This post originally appeared at our sister site the Creator's Project.