World Forensic Festival in Korea
Oct 31, 2014
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of conferences and speaking engagements. First, was the amazing World Forensic Festival in Seoul, Korea. Jet lag was brutal, but I am very excited by what I experienced! As a forensic scientist or consultant, if you ever have an opportunity to participate in an international meeting, I highly suggest you do whatever it takes to attend. The feeling of camaraderie and common mission reminded me of why I entered this field 20 years ago: To Seek and Illustrate the Truth. I found myself surrounded by thousands of like-minded people, from countries as distant and distinct as Ghana and Uzbekistan. It was truly inspiring and had my mind running on overdrive each evening.
The conference lasted for 7 days and was well supported by vendors from across the globe, showcasing a truly dazzling array of cutting-edge technologies. As a Forensic Animator and 3D Laser Scanning specialist, I was particularly intrigued by the demonstration of Leica Geosystem’s new 3D scanner, (the P20) and by a company called MediaCube, who was demonstrating their incredible video enhancement software that uses statistical algorithms to clarify video in a way that rivals what we see on TV! As a testifying expert, I am continuously dealing with juror’s expectations that forensic technology be good as it is on TV – just like the rest of you, I usually “know better”….perhaps the software wizards have finally caught up!
As impressive as the vendors showcase was, it was really the individuals and teams of scientists and consultants who stole the show for me. The lectures I attended, just a fraction of what was available, showed just how far ahead AND far behind the US is in the forensic sciences. Some presentations in the accident reconstruction track would have been seen as commonplace a decade ago here in the US; and some of the work that was presented left me scratching my head wondering “how did they do that”? Of particular interest to me was the collaborative, real-time, virtual reality system showcased by Youngwon Kim from Korea University. At PSI we are developing technology to bring accident and crime scenes to a team of experts via Virtual Reality, (and someday the jury). Seeing what Mr. Kim had created to allow investigators in different countries to view and tour a crime scene via headset or goggles really gave me a fresh perspective on the challenges. Also of interest is the work being done in Beijing to develop methods for extracting dimensions from video footage that has large, and unknown distortion. PSI has been involved in reconstruction via video for a decade, and the distortion issue has always been something we struggle with – more food for thought and a fresh approach.
I was honored to be chosen to present our work along with so many talented scientists from across the globe. My talk focused on PSI’s ground breaking 3-step process for creating the 3D Working Model – Document, Analyze and Visualize. This process has been the foundation for our continued success and track record in getting 100% of our work in front of the jury, despite many valiant efforts by the opposition to exclude it. I began with an overview of 3D Laser Scanning technology and demonstrated using it to “lift” the scene and physical evidence from the real world environment and bring it into the computer, preserving the existing conditions precisely for later use in our reconstruction. I offered the standing room only group insights into how we use the 3D Working Model to synchronize all of the expert analyses and hone them until each piece of the reconstruction matches the available physical evidence. Further, I illustrated how the Working Model works, how reconstruction in the computer allows the expert to perform analyses that would be impossible otherwise, leading to greater insights and more impact in front of the jury. I provided specific examples of how to use the Working Model to critique opposition experts and concluded with examples of this process and the 3D visualizations that typically result from it. It was clear from the response and number of questions following my presentation that this is an area where the US is ahead of the curve. Another example of how our adversarial system forges the most powerful and insightful analyses when it comes to crime and accident reconstruction.
This event is held every three years and during the conference the four countries vying to host the 2017 session were doing their best to garner the governing board’s votes. In a contest between Brazil (my vote), Denmark, Canada, and Turkey the proud host of the 2017 session will be Toronto, Canada. I will be looking forward to learning of the event specifics and having another opportunity to rub elbows with the crème de la crème of international forensics. Who knows what will be available in 2017!
Craig Fries is the Founder and President of Precision Simulations, Inc., the foremost forensic analysis and animation firm in the US. In this role he has created or directed over 1,000 3D forensic animations for use in criminal and civil litigation and has maintained a 100% record of non-exclusion at trial. As a pioneer in the field of forensic laser scanning, Craig created the first 3D animation based upon laser scan data ever admitted at trial in the US, and has been at the forefront of the use of the technology in homicide and accident investigation since.