Microsoft had to spend a lot of time and money explaining to people that the Kinect, despite being a camera that was always on and always pointed at the couch, was not actually recording everything you do. Despite that, however, the Kinect has some value to forensic scientists… and in fact, may make solving crimes much easier.
According to a paper published in the Journal of Forensic Science, the Kinect can be used to gather precise, accurate 3D representations of a crime scene and the objects found within it. The abstract does admit that it has its limitations:
The results show that the Kinect noise level increases with range, from 5 mm at 1.5 m range to 15 mm at 3 m range. It is considered that for detail measurements the sensor must be placed close to the target. A general measurement of a sample crime scene was analyzed. Errors in length measurements are between 2% and 10% for 3 m range. The measurement range must be limited to c. 3 m.
But buried underneath the cold technical jargon is a big “Who cares? We can get a full, detailed 3D construction of the crime scene for like $30 at GameStop.” The implications of that are enormous. By laying out the crime scene exactly as it was, forensic scientists can apply the data they collect elsewhere, from blood spatters to chemical residues, and essentially have the tools they need to completely recreate the scene. For example, they could figure out where the killer entered the crime scene at a murder, determine where a murder weapon might have been dropped, or visually look over the scene for details they might have missed.
It’s not going to replace taking lots of photos right away, or other forensic techniques, but if the work holds up, it could mean a valuable and low-cost tool has been added to the forensic scientists arsenal. And, when they’re bored, they can always play Star Wars Kinect.