Monday, January 17, 2011

The Future is Now.

I finally had an opportunity to sit down and blog! Over the holiday break I tried very hard to unplug for a few days and it did me a world of good. During that time I thought back to the evolution of technology I have used in the courtroom over the past fifteen years. It seems like just yesterday I was lugging a desktop tower and full sized computer monitor to the courtroom. I recall very clearly the loud and obnoxious sound the fan made when I was trying to playback a video file so big it needed its own zip code. The USB flash drive on my current keychain has more storage space then that old desktop!

As fun as recalling the war stories of old tech may be what the future potentially holds is much more interesting. Our jury pool is very quickly changing with the addition of younger people and the exit of technology curmudgeons.  Our new jurors are addicted to social media, smart phones and invigorated by technology which is interactive. Appealing to these jurors will soon be difficult with static presentations such as PowerPoint or worse an archaic flip chart and penmanship which needs archeological intervention to decipher.

Below I will briefly explore four areas which I believe will find their way into the courtroom. Anyone of these areas could potentially become the next big thing for trial presentation. My basic ground rule is the technology must assist the jurors to absorb and understand. Otherwise you are left with an expensive endeavor which did more harm to the learning process then good. As our jury pool changes new presentation technology will not be a distraction but rather expected. 

With the release this past year of the first wave of 3D televisions a light bulb went off for me. One of the biggest barriers with presenting video and photo to a jury is always the lack of depth perception. Depending on the case and subject matter a complicated animation may need to be rendered just to recreate that loss of content. Or worse a physical model (although tactile is good) is used and depending on the judge it never makes it into the juror’s hands. Nothing like a squinting juror as they attempt to see the partially obscured model an expert is referring too.

How cool would it be to show the jury a 3D video right after the lunch break! Their stomachs are full of food and they think they will just dose off during some boring video. Then counsel passes out 3D glasses and suddenly our jury is awake, having fun and ready to learn. OK, so that probably would not work depending on the court venue but autostereoscopic enabled screens would. Autostereoscopic displays are able to provide depth perception without the hindrance of specialized headgear or glasses. The potential for learning and “taking the jury there” are endless with these 3D displays.

The autostereoscopic displays have already been designed and retail for about $20,000. Drop in the bucket, eh?  It really is nothing if you think how fast the technology will plummet in price. By comparison in 2003 a 40” LCD TV cost roughly $9000. Compare that to the low price of $500 in 2010 and it just proves my point.

As soon as I saw the commercial for this I was enthralled. Admittedly the technology is in its infancy and apparently the sensor is riddled with accuracy issues. The technology is based on gesture recognition so you can imagine the possibilities already in the courtroom. Considering the current form is able to track up to six people I see no reason why accuracy could not be improved for just one user.

Imagine an expert teaching the jurors from the witness stand or an opening statement aided with this technology. I think a compelling way to use this tool would be to control an avatar for demonstration purposes. The witness could physically recreate a situation with an environment that is tailored to the case. The benefit here is the jury would see the witness and the avatar go through the motions. I think from a presentation aspect it would be very helpful for the jurors to understand both physical movements and environmental or case theme relationships.

This is the one area of technology which I believe could be integrated into court room presentation sooner than later. Most of us are already using annotation capable monitors on the witness stand.  There is no reason why we could not take that step further and introduce this touch technology into trial presentations. This would allow a witness to enlarge, flip and move key photos or documents around.

I would venture to say that most people are already using a touch capable device every single day. It is not beyond the realm of belief to consider this technology being used in synergy with various types of presentations software. Windows 7 Touch and a touch sensitive screen are already allowing this to happen. We have not even scratched the surface of how touch will make our lives easier as presenters well into the future. Move over mouse and traditional keyboard!

This one is something to get very excited about. This technology brings us one step closer to full blown 3D laser holograms in the courtroom. OpenLase is an open-source real time laser graphics project which is shown in the video below.

Will this eventually be mixed with gesture technology to give us Ironman type presentation capability in the courtroom?

The possibilities are just mind boggling to consider. Just gauge how fast science fiction of yesterday has become the technology of today. I recall watching Star Trek as a youngster and thinking how cool Kirk’s flip open communicator was. Smart phones do that and so much more already! My Nostradamus prediction is ten years and jurors will be considering holographic evidence.

In closing I just want to challenge everyone to think about how technology will continue to change and enhance visual communication. This is especially true in an environment such as a courtroom with an audience composed of jurors. Those twelve people need to absorb and understand some complicated concepts often in a short time frame. Any technologies which make this learning process easier are a leap in the right direction. How Kinected will you be?


Autostereoscopy. (2011, January 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 17, 2011, from

Kinect. (2011, January 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 16, 2011, from

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