This Augmented Reality App Aims to Solve Cold Cases — and Change How True Crime Stories Are Told
Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake
- CrimeDoor, an immersive augmented reality app launched last week, is straddling the space between mystery entertainment and crowdsourced crime solving.
- The app was conceived by Neil Mandt, a longtime film and TV producer-turned-tech entrepreneur. A true crime enthusiast himself, Mandt said he saw an opportunity to merge the popular genre with immersive reality.
- The AR environments are constructed based on real crime scene photos, police reports and eyewitness accounts.
A new augmented reality app launched this week allows anybody to feel what it's like to explore a murder site as it appeared right after the crime occurred. They may even be able to help crack an unsolved crime.
The app opens onto a map that shows users historic crime scenes in their area, using GPS data. Each crime comes with a case file that includes a list of articles, documents, photos, audio clips and videos curated by crime journalists and researchers that is meant to provide an organized synopsis of "the 5 w's and h."
CrimeDoor was conceived by Neil Mandt, a longtime film and TV producer-turned-tech entrepreneur. A true crime enthusiast, Mandt said he saw an opportunity to merge the popular genre with immersive reality, an industry he's been increasingly involved in over the last few years and which he believes is "on the verge" of explosive growth.
The AR environments are constructed based on real crime scene photos, police reports and eyewitness accounts using CrimeDoor's patent-pending technology and Unity, a gaming engine.
Users can explore the crime scene using their mobile devices at the real, physical location when feasible, or with a joystick navigator from their own home. They'll see the scene as it was reconstructed, and can "pick up" evidence and enlarge it on their screens for closer inspection.
At launch, the app will contain about 500 cases and dozens of virtual doorways, Mandt said. Cases are free, but the app charges $1.99 to enter a door, or a monthly fee of $4.99.
Some of the cases are famous, such as the murder of OJ Simpson's former wife Nicole Brown Simpson or the shooting of John Lennon. But, Mandt said, most will not be as familiar.
One such case is that of Rebecca Zahau, a woman whose 2011 death in Coronado, California was ruled a suicide. The family contested the cause of death and filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Zahau's family has provided CrimeDoor with materials such as court documents and autopsy photos. A perpetrator was charged in a civil trial – not a criminal one – and Mandt said the family wants to bring the case back to light and give the public a chance "to look at it."
Mandt also noted he has heard great feedback from both user test groups and law enforcement agencies.
"The average detective has one hour on a crime scene and later a couple of photos and a matchstick and a hairy sock," Mandt said. "We have shown this to the FBI and law enforcement departments and without exception everyone compared it to DNA. The way DNA changed the game, this will do the same."
According to a company representative, a retired criminal investigator who helped to solve the infamous Golden State Killer case called CrimeDoor "a game changer for cold cases around the world."
UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who has studied and written about the intersection of AR/VR and law, told dot.LA that CrimeDoor should be wary of potential issues such as libel or needlessly upsetting a victim's family members. He emphasized, however, that such concerns are no different than those faced by any true crime storyteller, regardless of the medium.
"Generally, there are no legal or ethical problems raised by an AR or VR app as opposed to a documentary or a book," he said.
Mandt, who is self-financing the app, sees partnerships with media companies as a big opportunity for future growth. He said an organization with legacy crime footage, such as "60 Minutes," could partner with CrimeDoor to build out the AR crime portal, re-air the legacy footage on television, then direct viewers to the app and share a cut of the income.
"I'm interested in where the social web goes and how other AR leaders come to us and say here's how we can collaborate," he said. "The tech community, I'm excited to see what kind of creative things they can do with this. And Hollywood – producers will look at this and come to us."
Mandt also hinted at potential expansion by augmenting the user experience with sounds and technology that stimulates a user's sense of touch. He's also considering adding a marketplace to sell merchandise and implementing a credit-earning system to allow for add-on experiences, such as a ride-along in the OJ white Bronco highway chase.
Down the line, CrimeDoor may incorporate advertising, Mandt said. The app may also eventually incorporate premium content, such as access to movies, shows and books related to a given case.
Sam Blake primarily covers media and entertainment for dot.LA. Find him on Twitter @hisamblake and email him at samblake@dot.LA
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
TikTok competitor Triller is in advanced talks with at least three blank-check companies to go public at a valuation between $3 billion and $6 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter.
That range is broad because the L.A.-based viral video app is seeking to acquire one of its strategic partners, a U.S. subsidiary of a foreign-listed company, before merging with a special purpose acquisition company or SPAC, those sources said. The target company is a tech business that Triller already works with to help monetize its app. If that acquisition goes through, one source said, Triller's revenues would increase from around $100 million to $300 million, and its valuation could be on the higher end of the reported range.
- Triller Fights Music Infringement Lawsuit - dot.LA ›
- Why SPACs Are Today's Best Option for an IPO - dot.LA ›
LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021
Fidelity Reportedly Seeks To Unload Bird Shares at a Loss<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTc0NTgyM30.2gHsdIxx6hnX0sV0Evq4Xdc-UsOWfaDn5sxhMhUWVoQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="e3f93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7034229cee2777d3a9f7e45313d88a5b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Escooter Unicorn Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQupload.wikimedia.org<p>Fidelity Investments is attempting to unload some of its shares in Bird Rides Inc. at a loss, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bird-investor-fidelity-selling-stake-scooter-2020-12?r=US&IR=T" target="_blank">according to a report</a> published Wednesday night by Business Insider.</p><p>The move comes <a href="https://dot.la/bird-scooter-2648232688.html" target="_self">after dot.LA reported in October</a> that the mutual fund giant has marked down the value of its Bird investment by 17% since the beginning of the year.</p><hr><p>As a private company, Bird does not have to share its financials. Nor do the venture funds that hold most of its shares. However, Fidelity is required to account for shares at their fair market value so it provides a rare glimpse into the company's health.</p><p>But a source close to the matter said the sale should not be seen as any indication of Bird's financial performance. The shares represent less than ten percent of Fidelity's position and the intended sale is the result of a new portfolio manager taking over who does not want to invest in pre-IPO companies, the source said. </p><p>Neither Bird nor Fidelity would respond to dot.LA's request for comment.</p><p>Bird <a href="https://www.inc.com/magazine/201902/will-yakowicz/bird-electric-scooter-travis-vanderzanden-2018-company-of-the-year.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">became the fastest company in history</a> to reach unicorn status in 2018 and achieved a $2 billion valuation less than a year later. But as the pandemic hit, it abruptly laid off 406 employees <a href="https://dot.la/bird-layoffs-meeting-story-2645612465.html" target="_self">via a Zoom call</a> and was forced to remove its fleet from city streets just as it was gearing up for its normally lucrative summer season. </p><p>dot.LA reported in October the company <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EjstMVqVoAAWd7f.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">put its Santa Monica offices up for sublease</a> less than a year after completing a costly renovation.</p><p>Bird has maintained <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/empty-streets-effect-pandemic-unexpected-lesson-life-after-cars/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the pandemic has been a positive</a> as riders prefer scooters over crowded buses and subways. <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/scooter-riders-making-comeback-riding-longer-than-ever/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It says it is seeing riders take longer trips</a> than they did before the pandemic. </p><p>Last month, <a href="https://dot.la/bird-ipo-2648944903.html" target="_self">Bloomberg reported</a> Bird is looking to go public via a blank-check company. Bird said it had no plans to go public "this year," which did not exactly rule out a SPAC sometime in the near future. </p>
Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MzAxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTg0MTM1Mn0.QPKaMFTusp_uKe5Td0K77QKhp7KXUY6_An5edQ588VM/image.jpg?width=980" id="460a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c53839f0b8ac6658fd10bb2da6ea53f8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Plug In South LA's Accelerator Program is returning in 2021. The outfit is looking for 10 Black and Latinx founders who have proof of product-market fit and traction. The organization, founded in 2015 by Derek Smith, aims to build a network for Black and Latinx founders in South Los Angeles.<br></p><p>Last year was the inaugural accelerator program funded by Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank and Nike. The 2019 cohort hosted five startups including Spooler, a tech-based clothing design startup that credits the program with helping to increase revenue two fold since March. During the program, the company received a contract to launch a Sesame Street active wear product line. </p><p>The last day to <a href="http://pluginsouthla.com/accelerator" target="_blank">apply for the program</a> is Dec. 9 </p>
- Bird Scooters Could Benefit From a Post-Covid World - dot.LA ›
- Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQ - dot.LA ›