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Using Science to Solve Crime

By Mike Martin
Do you want to solve crime like Sherlock Holmes? It’s elementary. You just have to study science. That’s what crime scene investigators are finding out more and more each day. Instead of a magnifying glass like old-time detectives, their latest tool is 3-D laser scanning that allows them to quickly build and understand a highly accurate model of any crime scene.
This equipment is expensive and hard to move around and manipulate so police forces are also looking to engineers and researchers to help them find simple and less costly alternatives. One area that might be able to help them may come as a surprise. It’s the computer gaming industry. They are taking the work done by computer engineers who designed the new Microsoft's Xbox Kinect, which helps players control games using their gestures and body movements, and adapting it to capture landscapes and objects in three dimensions, with accurate colour mapping and texturing.
This is great for computer gamers because it creates a sense of actually being inside the game location. But it also works for crime investigators because it allows accurate recording of even minor objects in any crime scene. Later, that information can be examined and re-examined in minute detail, allowing the police to find tiny clues that might help solve really big crimes. Researchers have helped police departments combine this Xbox technology with their own camera equipment and a simple laptop to quickly scan and process any location, producing a full 360-degree view of the crime scene in seconds.
This is just one more way that science is helping to improve our lives, and make it safer for everyone. Can you imagine playing computer games while you are doing your research. Now, that would be fun.