The World Of Technology And Law Enforcement Is Expanding To Include Virtual Reality (And This Is What That Really Means)

Pete/Flickr
Pete/Flickr

It’s happening. The world we live in is at a pinnacle moment: a moment where emerging tech is so progressive, humans are barely comprehending it as it emerges. Our day to day lives are becoming so rapidly ingrained in advanced technology that it seems as though we are at the forefront of science fiction turned reality.

Questions start to arise: will we continue to drive cars ourselves? Will pilots always fly the planes we travel on? And will gasoline itself become obsolete? What about the most pressing issue within all of these newfound advancements? What about our safety?

As body and dash cameras for police officers have become a modern regularity, many people start to wonder what will evolve for those who ‘serve and protect’ the world.

As it stands roughly 72 percent of state police and highway patrol vehicles are equipped with dash cameras and about 25 percent of cops use body cameras. These numbers will certainly skyrocket as augmented reality gear starts to become a part police vehicles and office uniforms.

Police Want Both Virtual And Augmented Reality

Virtual reality is a phenomenon that’s impossible to ignore. With 2015 being such a benchmark year, one thing is certain: virtual reality is officially here, and it’s here to stay. The potentials for virtual and augmented (enhanced) reality are huge. In fact, it’s estimated that the market for virtual and augmented reality will be worth a collective $150 billion by 2020!

As virtual and augmented reality tech progresses, creative new uses and applications will start to improve productivity and efficiency in most workplaces. Police officers want to get their hands on both virtual and augmented reality, because it will make their jobs easier and hopefully more efficient. Augmented reality will make patrolling more streamlined and virtual reality will open up a whole new avenue of potential for academy training methods. Not surprisingly, this is actually already starting to happen.

Google Glass, the successful augmented reality wearable, is already becoming a favorite new gadget for police forces in the United States. The New York City Police Department has been beta testing Google Glass, mainly for surveillance purposes, since last year.

“We signed up, got a few pairs of the Google glasses, and we’re trying them out, seeing if they have any value in investigations, mostly for patrol purposes,” a ranking New York City law enforcement official told popular tech news site VentureBeat.

A extremely informative study titled Improving Our View of the World: Police and Augmented Reality Technology pinpoints why police want virtual and augmented reality at their disposal:

“AR technology will also have a dramatic impact on policing, creating innovative methods
for combating crime and terrorism. It will also afford criminals and terrorists new opportunities
for exploiting, disrupting and harming society. In order to be used effectively, police personnel
need to fully understand current AR capabilities and what will emerge in the coming decades.
Some possible AR applications for policing include: patrol, SWAT operations, criminal investigation, training, and improved supervision.”

Risks and benefits exist within this balance of convenience and potential power issues. However, AR tech could potentially improve police officer performance well beyond current levels.

Augmented Reality And Police Officer Patrolling

AR tech for patrol officers will offer a range of new ideas, which will be used in a wide range of scenarios. Although it is uncertain at this time whether these advancements will be all around helpful or potentially damaging to society, these concepts will likely be used by police officers sooner than later. The following are possible avenues of use for police tech enriched with augmented reality:

Limiting Language Barriers:
Real-time language translation and information on group’s cultural customs would certainly help improve information flow between officers and the public.

Sensors That Protect:
If sensors for chemicals and explosive are integrated into police gear that type of tech could immediately notify officers of any contamination in an area. A database could house information that would recommend appropriate measures for officers to take in unfamiliar situations.

Better Navigation and Insight:
Scalable, three dimensional maps, complete with building floor plans, sewer system schematics, public utility information and public transportation routes, could be accessed at will to improve situational awareness and response to problems. Also patrol car operator data and regional traffic management information could be displayed to make driving safer and more efficient, especially in pursuit and rapid response situations.

Facial Recognition:
Facial, voice-print and other biometric recognition data of known criminals within a database could allow officers to identify wanted subjects merely by observing people on the street.

Additionally, keeping a detailed catalog of those with known mental health issues would be extremely important and useful. Police officers already struggle to appropriately handle situations involving people with mental health disorders. This could be a solution. If a person is identified through a database and image recognition as someone with history of mental health and an officer is not properly trained to handle the situation, a replacement could then easily be called in.

Drone Surveillance:
Aerial drones equipped with facial recognition could be used to survey and pick out criminals in large, crowded areas. Drones could also be programmed to recognize suspicious movement or activity. Search and rescue groups could also drastically benefit from having an intelligent overhead view of the area they are searching.

As new technologies are introduced to police officers around the world, we are left with a few pressing questions: will these types of technological advancements be used to better society? Or will advancements actually ignite the power struggle that exists between the general public and officers who abuse their power? Will they protect and serve us, or prowl and survey us? Odds are that constant police surveillance isn’t that far off; only time will tell. TC mark

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