High Impact Bringing Virtual Reality to the Courtroom
What if you could transport your jury from a courtroom to the scene of a catastrophic event? What if you could teleport the opposition from a mediation room to the driver’s seat of the defendant’s car before a horrific collision? What if you could immerse your audience in a cloud of asbestos on a construction site that was shut down years ago?
At High Impact, we’re constantly pushing the envelope of what’s possible in enhancing visual communication for attorneys. We’re now proud to introduce: Virtual Reality.
A virtual reality legal exhibit is a virtual world we create based on data gathered from the real world. Similar to forensic animation - with the right amount of data and evidence - we can recreate virtually any environment and simulate what occurred.
Everything we do at High Impact can be transported to a virtual reality, where an audience can be immersed in a visceral experience.
Ryan Farmer, High Impact Animator
The 3D virtual crash you see in the VR exhibit above was originally a 3D animation that helped win an undisclosed settlement, which you can learn about in this case study. We used advanced 3D scanning techniques and worked with accident reconstructionists at Jacobson Forensic Engineering to make sure everything we created was grounded in hard science. This video below explains the process.
The animations that we receive from High Impact when they're completely rendered, are some of the best animations that we've ever seen. In our job, we see animations often from other companies that really don't meet the standards and the high quality that we see from High Impact.
Guy Barbera, President, Jacobson Forensic Engineering
Virtual reality takes this to the next level, opening up your field of vision to being able to see the entire world built around you. The experience actually tricks your brain into feeling like you are actually inside that world. It's an effect called “immersion.”
This immersive experience is literally mind-altering and can add significant value to your case. For example:
- Virtual Catastrophe: Imagine how much more empathy you would feel for the victim of a catastrophic collision if you were to experience the tragedy first-hand.
- Virtual POV Collision: Placing yourself behind the wheel of a defendant's vehicle could provide will provide powerful context for how a collision should have been avoided.
- Virtual Asbestos Exposure: To emphasize the exposure to asbestos a worker faced on a job site, you could literally place your audience at the scene performing his hazardous duties.
- Virtual Product Defects: In a product liability case, you could break apart an object and enable your audience to objectively examine internal defects from any angle.
- Virtual Anatomy: If you needed your audience to understand a complicated medical concept, you could send them through a plaintiff's anatomy where they could watch biological functions occur around them.
- Virtual Brain Injury Symptoms: With the right experts, you could even simulate some brain injury symptoms, such as blurred vision, dizziness, or monocular blindness.
The possibilities for virtual reality are virtually limitless.
Dieter Sliter, High Impact Technical Director
One way to help your audience understand the amount of pain and suffering your client experienced is to put them in the shoes of the victim. This animation helped Ronald E. Johnson win a $7.3M settlement in Fort Wright, KY, which you can learn about in this case study.
A virtual reality version of this experience would transport the user to the defendant's vehicle, and then to the eye-witness perspective of the fatal crash, and finally to the front seat of the victim's car. Instead of observing a driver’s negligent behavior, you could experience what this catastrophe felt like.
The High Impact team worked closely with our accident reconstruction experts to make sure that our animation of the collision was entirely accurate. It was a key part of our presentation at mediation and after our second attempt at settlement the case settled for full value.
Ronald E. Johnson, Jr., Esq., Schachter, Hendy & Johnson, Attorneys At Law
A Virtual POV Perspective
POV animations allow your audience to objectively observe a defendant's actions to determine how easily he or she could have avoided a crash. This animation was used in a nighttime visibility case to defend a farmer against a plaintiff who claimed he could not see this tractor in time to avoid a collision.
We built the animation on the left. The opposition presented the animation on the right. Who do you think the jury believed?
This example stresses the importance of accuracy and realism. If your virtual world doesn't look real or accurate, your audience will be able to tell. And if you happen to be going up against an attorney who hired High Impact, expect the jury to side with accuracy and realism every time - like they did in this case for a $0 defense verdict. This case study explains what we did to lay the foundation of accuracy for this animation.
The High Impact animation was, unlike the opposing animation, based on scientific principles and methodology. The result was an animation that was far more realistic in appearance, and far more credible, than what the other side had done. So even though we had not initially intended to get an animation done, I believe that it played a critical role in our successful defense of the farmer.
Michael S. Simpson, Esq., Richard and Simpson
Virtually Immersed in Asbestos
As mesothelioma shows itself in retired workers years after their companies knowingly exposed them to asbestos, showing undeniable proof of this exposure is key to returning the compensation necessary to treat this agonizing condition.
This animation helped Joseph Satterley, Esq., return an enormous, undisclosed settlement for his client who was exposed to dangerously excessive amounts of asbestos on his job site. Immersing an audience in this environment would provide an undeniable understanding of this company's liability.
Virtual Breakdown of Product Defects
Product liability cases can be difficult to explain because often times the underlying defects can be complex or unclear. Animation allows you to break apart a product, and show exactly what went wrong. This animation was used to help Samuel Davis, Esq., return a $15M settlement for a young girl who's foot was swallowed under the landing plate at the top of an escalator. Read the entire case study here.
In a virtual reality, a juror could be immersed in this experience, and would be able to see all these moving parts up close. We could even give your audience the ability to interact with these moving parts in a way that gives them a full grasp of the reality you're trying to communicate - like we did in the next example.
Virtual reality is not limited to forensics. We can immerse your audience into any biological anatomy where they could look around, see, and even interact with the concept you're trying to help them understand.
We built this 3D interactive heart for Hans Poppe to help him expose a monopoly of Kentucky cardiologists who conspired to perform hundreds of unnecessary heart surgeries on patients for the purpose of boosting profits. You can read the entire case study here. Explaining cardiology to a jury is extremely difficult, but having them experience that world for themselves provides virtually limitless context for understanding.
Imagine how the cardiologists in the testimonial below would have reacted to experiencing this exhibit in a virtual world.
When we rolled the giant touchscreen with the 3D interactive heart into the courtroom, the defense lawyers immediately began objecting. As we argued the issue before the judge, two of the defendant cardiologists became mesmerized with the exhibit. So I walked the defendant cardiologists through the presentation and let them play with it, and then casually asked if they considered it a 'fair and accurate' representation. In front of the judge, they both admitted it was, and accidentally sabotaged their lawyer’s own objections.
Hans Poppe, Esq., The Poppe Law Firm
Virtual Brain Injury Symptoms
One of the demonstratives we specialize in is the 3D brain map. Its purpose is to correlate specific brain injuries to neurological defects that the plaintiff suffered as a result of the TBI. The goal is to make your audience understand your client's long-term pain and suffering.
Now what if instead of simply outlining these symptoms, you could make your audience experience what some of these symptoms actually feel like. You could transport jurors to a plaintiff's day-to-day activities to show how much more difficult life is with blurred vision or losing sight in one eye. With the right neuropsychological experts, the possibilities could be endless.
Using Virtual Reality in the Courtroom
Virtual reality has been used in litigation, but mostly in other countries and usually in criminal cases. It’s currently being used to investigate Nazi war criminals in the still-ongoing Nuremberg Trials. Police officers used 3D scanning to create virtual realities for the Tamir Rice shooting and San Berdino massacre - although they didn’t go the next step of immersing the audience into the world. (We could.)
The first case of VR headsets being admitted into a U.S. courtroom happened in 1992. A young woman wrecked her three-wheeler into a ravine during a time Honda was facing lawsuits for that particular model. The defense attorney for Honda, Dennis Seley, needed to show jurors that the path was much too dangerous to be driving on.
Using a technique called “stereoscopic photography” Mr. Seley’s expert’s created a POV video of the driver’s perspective on that path. They programmed that video into 12 headsets that were all synced together at a control station. They moved the jurors into a dark room, shut off the lights, and all the jurors put on the headsets.
We played the video over and over with witnesses and experts giving their testimony while jurors experienced what it was really like to drive down that rugged path. The plaintiff tried to have it thrown out, but couldn’t because the judge thought it added relevant information that would help jurors make an informed decision.
The jury sided with Mr. Seley’s argument that the road was too dangerous to be driving on, and Honda was not held liable for any damages.
There are some differences between our VR setup and the presentation conducted by Mr. Seley in 1992. The headsets used in the Honda case only showed one fixed perspective - whereas our headsets enable the user to look around in any direction inside a virtual world. The POV video was also of actual photography mixed together to form a POV video. Our virtual reality is built of 3D models based on evidence and experts.