Will augmented reality change policing?

The R-7 augmented reality glasses offer facial recognition and LPR

What does the future hold for law enforcement technology? Ask that question and you’ll get as many different answers as there are science fiction writers. To them, the future is limitless, and technology is what drives it. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait on the future or for our favorite writers to tell us. We can go directly to the source, the Osterhout Design Group (ODG) of San Francisco.

Since 1999, led by founder and CEO Ralph Osterhout, ODG has worked with high-tech electronics. This has led to the development of the R-7 Smartglasses — a set of specs that offer the wearer what is called augmented reality. Targeted for military and industrial use, these glasses immerse the wearer in an array of technology and applications designed to enhance performance while leaving the wearer’s hands free.

The R-7 Smartglasses run on a Snapdragon 805, Quad-core 2.7 Ghz processor with 3GB RAM, and they rely on a specially designed operating system called ReticleOS that runs atop Android KitKat, allowing for use of Android apps. The glasses utilize two 80fps, 1280x720p displays. The images have an 80 percent see-through transmission, allowing the wearer to see the images as well as what is beyond the glasses. The images can be seen in bright light as well as low-light situations, and the dual screens lend a special level of quality to 3-D images.

The R-7 Smartglasses are designed to enhance performance while leaving the wearer’s hands free.
The R-7 Smartglasses are designed to enhance performance while leaving the wearer’s hands free. (Osterhout Design Group Image)

What do all these details mean to the user? First, they show the glasses have as much processing power and quality of display as any tablet on the market. Second, while allowing an officer to keep his eyes on a suspect or situation, the glasses display the same information a tablet provides in the user’s normal field of vision without limiting use of the hands.

Law Enforcement Uses
Facial Recognition: Whether the officer is making contact with a civilian, a suspect, a gang member or a witness, these glasses are capable of running the Imagus Advanced Biometric Face Recognition Technology software. When compared to a database, this gives the officer quick access to information on the subject — name, address, contact information, criminal history and wants or warrants.

Facial recognition can even be used to tie a subject to a location, even if his or her name is unknown. For example, if a subject is spotted and tagged by the database at one location, such as a residence, the user would have that residence noted in the database if the subject is later spotted at a crime scene.

License Plate Recognition: Several companies specialize in license plate recognition technology. Through the use of the R-7’s autofocus camera, images can be scanned and the owner of vehicles quickly identified, along with the status of the vehicle itself.

ENRAM: A camera attachment for the R-7 known as the Explosives and Narcotics Residue Alert Module (ENRAM) can emit an array of 12 lasers capable of detecting explosive or narcotic residue on a person or object. This could prove invaluable to the bomb squad and allow for locating illegal drugs when a K-9 unit is unavailable.

MIT Video Magnification: Use of MIT Video Magnification software gives the first responder instant information on a wounded or unconscious subject. Through a subject’s low-amplitude facial movements and color variations, generated by pumping blood, the R-7’s 80fps camera is capable of registering a subject’s heartbeat.

Live Video Streaming: The camera is capable of streaming live video of a scene to the officer’s command post or to responding backup officers. This allows for the alteration of the responding officers’ actions, prevents them from walking unaware into hostile situations, and allows for immediate identification of suspects.

GPS Location: Anyone wearing these R-7 Smartglasses can be located by GPS, just as with any cellphone. Fellow officers and dispatch would know the wearer’s exact location, especially in times of crisis. In addition, an officer would be capable of detecting the direction of fellow officers simply by turning his head. The other officers would be visible before his vision as an icon indicating identification and distance.

Biomonitoring: The R-7’s three 9-axis inertial measurement units (IMU) allow for continuous information on the condition of an officer. The glasses would reveal whether the wearer is prone or mobile, and application software can report his vital signs.

Training: Shoot/Don’t Shoot training is vital to law enforcement. The glasses’ 3-D technology can mimic training scenarios provided by firearm simulators. An officer would be capable of conducting training on any building within his jurisdiction through 3-D modeling, reducing the need for simulators and allowing for easier portability.

Enhanced Vision: How would low-light or night vision enhance an officer’s tactical response? Through the use of enhanced video, an officer would gain the ability to see in the dark. This video would be projected before the officer’s eyes using the dual 720p stereoscopic see-through displays. A camera attachment would grant the wearer thermal enhancements.

Live-fire Trajectory: Through the use of a micro-Doppler antenna, the effect of live rounds on the atmosphere can be traced and the location of, for example, an active hidden shooter can be revealed. The officers can wait safely behind cover until the shooter is revealed.

See Through Walls: When combined with a device using radar or Doppler technology, such as the Range-R radar handset, someone wearing the R-7 Smartglasses could see the locations of subjects, hostages and injured or trapped people inside a building, even through concrete walls. Layered with 3-D mapping, tactical units would know the exact location of subjects.

Benefits for Law Enforcement
Permanent Records: By encouragement of the federal government and the demand of citizens, body cameras for law enforcement are spreading across this country. Officers are using the video records the cameras provide to support their actions and to ferret out inappropriate behavior.

However, the view provided by many of these cameras is limited. The camera is static and does not adjust for the movement of the officer or the subject. The R-7’s camera records the view of the officer wearing them. This view shifts with the officer’s perspective, capturing his experience.

Courtroom Testimony: An officer’s job does not end with an arrest. Use of the R-7 Smartglasses allows an officer to do a walk-through of any crime scene in full 3-D. A jury could take that walk right along with the officer who first responded to the scene. They can see the blood splatter, the victims and even the suspect exactly as the officer saw them. When evidence is pointed out on the ceiling, everyone can look at that evidence. This 3-D walk-through can demonstrate to any jury the limited amount of time an officer has to react to a suspect or shooter.

Cost: In a world of expanding police technology, cost is a factor that agencies cannot ignore. While staying within budget, they must consistently choose equipment that best benefits their agency. An agency that invests in these glasses can use them as a platform capable of expanding into more than one division within their department. The agency does not need to initially bear the full cost of all these expansions, but can instead spread out these costs as needed or as the agency expands.

Hands-free Use: Possibly the most important law enforcement benefit of these glasses is the hands-free capability. With the potential for danger always at hand, it is vital for the officer to keep his hands free. Tablets, computers and cellphones require the officer to use his hands. The R-7 Smartglasses limit this need and enhance the officer’s safety.

With all the technological potential these glasses and other devices offer law enforcement, the future is here.

For more information, visit Osterhout Design Group and check out this video.

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