Virtual Police Lineup

Would you ever want to be part of a Virtual Police Lineup?

Tech Gone Awry, our Guest Blogger, is a full-time freelance writer who enjoys writing about the latest in technology, as well as fiction. He lives in Pullman, Washington with his wife and three children. He wanted to share some of the latest in gadgets with the readers of Here's his article:

* * * * *

Right now, Stanford scientists are developing a Virtual Police Lineup. This is a device that allows you to put on a virtual reality helmet and view the usual suspects from a 3-D point of view. Not only does this program line them up in front of the traditional measuring bar background, but it can change the background to match the scene of the crime. Therefore, the victim can identify his or her assailant within proper context.

Sounds like the fictional tech you see on CSI. Still, if it gets developed, I can't help but wonder how this Virtual Police Lineup will function in the real world of criminal justice. How would it feel to be identified as a Virtual Suspect. Such is the subject of our story today.

It's never a good sign when two cops come to your home. By the time they ask you to come with them, you know you're in some trouble.

"I'm sorry, but I'll have to see some sort of warrant."

You feel a sick feeling when they bring forth a condemning sheet of paper. You go with them, walking ahead of them. You don't make a break for it, you just get in the squad car.

They haven't booked you yet, so you don't have the right to remain silent. Therefore, you need to answer all their questions, even though you probably could argue that you want a lawyer present. However, that would make you look guilty.

So you tell the officers where you were last night. They stop asking the questions there. There's no point in you asking any. If they wanted you to know why you're going to the station, they would have said so.

As it is, they take you to a room, and proceed to book you.

Now they've gone too far.

At the risk of sounding like the main character in a Franz Kafka story, you ask what you are being charged with.


"I'm sorry, but you're going to need some evidence."

They take you to a room that is empty, save for a chair with a helmet where the head should be. By the time you realize it's not an electric chair, your nerves are already shot.

"What is that?"


"And just what is a vipple?"

"Sorry. I mean V.P.L. Stands for Virtual Police Line. Haven't you heard the news stories?"

"I guess I thought that's all they were."

"Have a seat, and you'll see how true it is."

You sit down, and he straps the virtual reality helmet on. What you see is a dark alleyway, with very little light.

"What is this?"

"The alley behind the club you visited last night."

Suddenly, four men appear in the virtual alley. They are lined up perfectly like chess pawns.

"The one on the end should look familiar."

You feel strange as the last figure blows up, and spins around in three-dimensional digital bust. You recognize the clothes you wear last night. You can't help but still wonder whether you should have worn something else.

"The victim positively identified you this morning."

"Oh come on, this is a joke, right?"

"That technology was perfected under development at Stanford. It is designed so a victim can view every physical attribute of a suspect."

The officer takes off the helmet, and you are now in the real world.

"Lots of people look like me. Come on, you're going to book me because I happen to look like a group of pixels in this computer?"

"That program is designed to look like you. The victim positively identified you from among over forty suspects."

"You have no right to arrest me."

"We don't have the right to sentence, but we've got more than enough to charge."

There's no point in saying anything more. Let them take you to a cell. Better remember to call a lawyer when you get your phone call.

You will note that I never say whether the main character is guilty or not. I only wanted to question the accuracy of the Virtual Police Lineup identifying him as the rapist. Yet is it possible to identify a suspect from a lineup that looks like it's straight out of The Simms? Is virtual reality so good that something like this, could actually help someone identify a suspect in context of a crime scene?

Clearly, there are many issues of rights and responsibility here. What do you think about this new device? (From Primidi via Engadget )

Tech Gone Awry
Guest Blogger

May 16, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Instead of the DVDs Listed (e.g., "Ocean's Twelve")

You might want to add "The Usual Suspects".....and suggest a sequel:  "The Unusual Suspects".

May 17, 2007
by Michelle
Michelle's picture

Great idea. Loved the Unsual

Great idea. Loved the Unsual Suspects. Could not find Unusual Suspects at Amazon, but thanks for the suggestion. I've added Usual Suspect.

May 17, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

I only think its a matter of

I only think its a matter of time before virtual reality does really look like a virtual reality. I think the march to using this is inevitable.

This technology does not scare me as much as RFID chips in clothes to track them, and soon, inside of each of us to keep us "safe".

May 17, 2007
by Anonymous DVD (not verified)

And "Virtuosity"?

...or is that getting away from the line-up idea?