Iceland’s VR courtroom
What started as a bachelor’s level university project has turned into an innovative start-up company in a field believed to be unique in the world.
The three women behind the company have developed an exact virtual replica of a Reykjavík courtroom to help victims of sexual crimes familiarise themselves with the surroundings and the experience of being in court.
Research has shown that victims of such crimes often struggle with saying their story in court in front of judges and perpetrators and that this can affect their case. Early results from the VR courtroom are very positive and developers are now looking for volunteers to help test and further develop the technology.
“Research also shows that high stress has a negative effect on memory, so if people are in a state of stress, they find it hard to say what happened and answer questions,” says Rannveig Sigmundsdóttir, psychology lecturer at Reykjavik University (HR). “We are searching for volunteers aged 18 and over, who have themselves been victims of sexual abuse. As far as we know, this is the first research in the world in this area. So, we’re very excited. In the future, it would be possible to expand it much wider, for other sorts of situations, for other groups, and so forth.”
Hafdís Snæland, one of the three former IT students whose final project this was, says: “We went down to the District Court and took photos of the tables and chairs, to get the right texture, the right colours, and we recorded sound to have the environmental noise. So, we did a great deal of research work.”
Rannveig says the volunteers so far have been very impressed and wished that the technology had been available to them before they went to court.
“After we graduated, we decided we couldn’t just put this away in a drawer," Hafdís explains. "It is just too important to be able to help people. So we founded a company called Statum to carry on developing courtrooms in Virtual Reality and develop it further.”
The video above is in Icelandic but contains VR courtroom footage some may find interesting.