Digital investigative work in the holodeck. © Oliver Bodmer
The Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation is playing a pioneering role throughout Germany: A state-of-the-art holodeck enables digital investigative work at virtual crime scenes.
As part of the Star Trek universe, they have been inspiring the imagination of science fiction fans for decades: holodecks on spaceships in which any environment can be created virtually. A vision of the future that is now becoming reality at the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigation. After four years of development, the LKA has unveiled its own holodeck: the Tatort virtual reality room. It makes it possible to go back at any time to the place where a crime or misfortune has just taken place." The holodeck revolutionizes modern crime scene and investigative work," said Interior Minister Joachim Hermann (CSU). After all, police officers, experts and public prosecutors are given the opportunity in the 3D world to view and analyze the events of a case from all positions. Testimonies of suspects and observers can be reconstructed. How credible the testimony of a witness is, can be checked practically virtually in the middle of the action, said Bavaria's Digital Minister Judith Gerlach (CSU). "We use high-tech to hunt down criminals."
The new 3D technology was used in the investigation of the train accident in Burgrain. © Andreas Seiler
Ralf Breker, who heads the Department of Forensic Media Technology at the Forensic Institute of the LKA, also speaks of pioneering police work. Virtual reality has been a topic since 2014, and the 670,000-euro and 70-square-meter holodeck was then developed from 2019. In the process, a photorealistic twin of a crime scene is being developed: either through existing photographic material, as in the case of the Oktoberfest attack, or with scanners on site, as in the serious train accident in Burgrain. It takes at least six to eight hours until all the necessary recordings and information are available. From around 100 gigabytes of data volume, the computers then create the virtual crime scene. Users can go to it themselves by creating a digital avatar of themselves. A possibility that the two ministers have tried out in advance. In the scenario presented, they appear digitally on site at the Karlsplatz S-Bahn station. There, in the example case, a person was pushed onto the track.
Bavaria plays a pioneering role in Germany
It is possible for up to 100 investigators to meet at the same time at a virtual crime scene. "This allows them to exchange information, discuss hypotheses and combine their expertise to solve complex cases more quickly," Herrmann clarified. After the development phase, the LKA now wants to intensify its cooperation with the police headquarters. "Crime scene work is becoming more and more digital," emphasized LKA boss Harald Pickert. And Munich is leading the way: With its state-of-the-art holodeck, the LKA is taking on a pioneering scooter throughout Germany. Among the cases in which 3D technology is used is the Burgrain train accident. On June 3, 2022, five people died and 78 were injured when a train derailed between Garmisch and Farchant. LKA officers were at the scene of the accident to digitally scan the wagons, the tracks and the rail bed. According to Joachim Herrmann, this made it possible to capture the scenery, which changed quickly due to the salvage work alone. There is also a new virtual crime scene from the Oktoberfest attack in 1980, in which 13 people died. According to Herrmann, the holodeck has shown that there are discrepancies between witness statements and the perspectives or locations at the time.