Ferguson Firsthand debuts on Oculus Rift: A timeline

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We at Empathetic Media have been hard at work since last December, when we launched our first desktop virtual reality model of Canfield Green Apartments with Fusion, a joint venture between Univision Communications Inc. and the Disney/ABC Television Network.

The original model in the video below allowed users to explore the contrasting perspectives of the eyewitnesses in 3D virtual space using the Unity game engine plugin. Users could read each of the public witness accounts in hand rendered comics panels.


But the goal of the “The Michael Brown Shooting Visualized: Eyewitness Accounts”  was not only to provide an evergreen collection of the events that took place around the shooting, but also to convey the subjective, questionable nature of the “truth” that eyewitness accounts present.

 

So when the grand jury that presided over the Michael Brown case released a cloud of court documents presented in the case, we knew we needed to update our model to preserve its accuracy.

Using these documents we were able to glean important components of grand jury witness testimonies and have local voice actors record them. Using information from the documents, we placed beacons for these audio testimonies as close to their respective locations within the apartment complex as possible. We drew a testimony comics panel for Darren Wilson and added it to the center of the crime scene.  Using forensic reports, we also placed physical evidence beacons in their appropriate locations relative to the site of the shooting.

With these additions, we presented our new virtual forensic walkthrough on the Oculus Rift at the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Mo.

We found the new experience to be more immersive than our original desktop model. Feedback from our users this time conveyed a deeper connection with the case than we found in our first user testing event last October. By physically exploring the space firsthand, users were better able to form their own opinion of what happened.

The next step for this model is to incorporate the use of 3D characters to enact each testimony.  Currently we are looking into editing characters from the Mixamo repository and uploading them into unity for inclusion in the model. Stay tuned!

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