After Adnan Syed’s Release, People Flocked To Inspect The Murder Scene Via Augmented Reality

Andrew Fiouzi
Andrew Fiouzi is an editor at dot.LA. He was previously a features writer at MEL Magazine where he covered masculinity, tech and true crime. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Long Reads and Vice, among other publications.
After Adnan Syed’s Release, People Flocked To Inspect The Murder Scene Via Augmented Reality

After a Baltimore judge ordered the release of Adnan Syed—Syed was convicted for the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee—augmented reality app CrimeDoor made sure to let people know they could walk around the blood-splattered crime scene.

The campaign to lure users back to the scene of Lee’s murder began on September 17th. The day before news of Syed’s release was announced, CrimeDoor posted a side-by-side photo of Syed and Lee on Instagram with a reminder that the “hearing was scheduled for Monday.”

After the Associated Press announced the news, CrimeDoor tweeted an alert from their official Twitter account with another side-by-side photo, this time just of Syed. One photo from 1999, taken before he was accused of Lee’s murder. And another, more recent photo of Syed wearing a blue, maximum custody prison uniform.

Inside the app itself, the image carousel at the top featured the same side-by-side image with a “Breaking News” banner. A few rows down, in the “Recently Updated” section, users were shown a photo of Lee that clicks through to the 3D crime scene. Of course, the crime scene is locked. But for $4.99 anybody can know what it's like to explore the site of Lee’s murder as it appeared right after the crime occurred.

The subtext here was obvious: Maybe you can be the one to solve the case.

And for that matter, the marketing campaign worked. According to Google Trends, searches for CrimeDoor spiked on the day after the news of Syed’s release. Additionally, dot.LA’s original article about the Los Angeles-based company also saw a nearly 1000% jump in traffic from Google search.

That CrimeDoor sent out these alerts isn’t surprising. CrimeDoor is, however, notorious for pushing new updates when old murders are back in the news. Last year, they released the augmented reality edition of the drive-by shooting of Notorious B.I.G., aka Christopher Wallace, on the 24th anniversary of the Brooklyn native's murder outside the Peterson Automotive Museum.

The release was part of CrimeDoor’s special series on historical crimes that led off with a 3D recreation of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It also included the murder of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. As part of the series launch, CrimeDoor also sent out a press release to reporters promising to let users “experience final moments in history.” One of those moments was the murder of George Floyd presented, “for the first time in-person via augmented reality.” After public backlash, CrimeDoor canceled plans for that augmented reality murder scene.

In response to the backlash, CrimeDoor’s founder Neil Mandt told dot.LA last year that the families of two unsolved murder victims actually helped build out their respective crime door scenes for the app. "The awareness on those cases has significantly jumped, as a result of our efforts," Mandt said.

It should however be noted that up to this point, users have yet to help solve an actual case.

CrimeDoor did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Nonetheless, if interest in the app after the announcement of Syed’s release is any indication, the future of visiting murder scenes via augmented reality will likely continue to be be a lucrative business.

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NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
Evan Xie

NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL director Larry Page told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California, for an estimated economic output of $15 trillion.

“In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, Page said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. Page added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

Page said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

The Moon and Mars

Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” Page said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

International Space Station

NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” Page said.

Page added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. Page said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” Page said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

In the long term, Page was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” Page said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.

Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Three Wishes Cereal Co-Founder Margaret Wishingrad on ‘The Power of No’
Provided by BHE

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Three Wishes founder and CEO Margaret Wishingrad talks about creating brand awareness and shares the key component to running a successful business.

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If Angelenos Don’t Seize the Curb, They Risk Losing Sidewalk Dining

Maylin Tu
Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
Connie Llanos, Jordan Justus and Gene Oh
Justin Janes, Vizeos Media

Three years ago, Los Angeles went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, cities like L.A. are struggling to hold on to pandemic-era transportation and infrastructure changes, like sidewalk dining and slow streets, while managing escalating demand for curb space from rideshare and delivery.

At Curbivore, a conference dedicated to “commerce at the curb” held earlier this month in downtown Los Angeles, the topic was “Grading on a Curb: The State of our Streets & Cities in 2023,” a panel moderated by Drew Grant, editorial director for dot.LA.

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