CrimeDoor True Crime App Releases AR Experience of Notorious BIG, Tupac Murder Scenes

Sam Blake

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 True Crime App Releases AR Experience of Notorious BIG, Tupac Murder Scenes

Anyone wishing to relive the drive-by shooting of Notorious B.I.G., aka Christopher Wallace, can do so later this month through the true crime augmented reality app, CrimeDoor.

The upcoming release will coincide with the 24th anniversary of the Brooklyn native's murder outside the Peterson Automotive Museum, where he was attending a Vibe Awards after-party. CrimeDoor will also be releasing a door into the murder scene of rapper Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G.'s West Coast rival.


The app has a number of new additions slated and has seen users surge since it paid $1,000 to Olivia Snake, a true crime TikToker with 1.1 million followers, to promote it in mid-January, founder Neil Mandt said. Before that point, about 11,000 people had downloaded CrimeDoor since its October launch; in the subsequent 72 hours, 60,000 more piled in.

Over the last six weeks, Mandt said CrimeDoor has been downloaded 220,000 times. Even as it faces criticism from victims' rights advocates, it climbed as high as number four among news apps on the iOS App Store, which uses an algorithm to rank apps based on factors including downloads and user engagement.

Those data were confirmed by third-party analytics firms Apptopia and Sensor Tower.

"We hit the market [with the TikTok influencer], we got a lot of publicity, we saw immediate growth," said Mandt.

CrimeDoor allows users to explore unsolved crime scenes recreated with augmented reality (AR). The app opens onto a map that shows users nearby historic crime scenes. 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. For an additional fee, users can explore select crime scenes via AR environments the company creates with Unity, a gaming engine.

Mandt, a Hollywood veteran and true crime enthusiast, said CrimeDoor now has around 700 case files, comprising about 60,000 total hours worth of content, and that at least three new cases appear on the app every day. There are currently 20 "doors" — augmented reality portals through which users can enter various crime scenes — which will increase by about one per month, Mandt said.

CrimeDoor Pushback

A local NBC station in Arizona ran a segment in December highlighting concerns that the app exploits victims. Mandt responded that they are only sharing facts, and not glorifying violence.

The company maintains it can actually help victims' family members who want to bring new light to the unsolved crimes that stole their loved ones.

But not everyone may want that. Ferroll Robin, executive director of L.A.-based Loved Ones Victims Services, lost her brother to homicide.

"This is a very sensitive issue," she said. "[CrimeDoor] could trigger all kinds of emotions that families and loved ones have kind of moved past, so this could actually re-victimize them in a sense." Some families might see CrimeDoor as helpful, she said, "because they want their crime solved so bad." On the other hand, Robin reiterated, "I've had clients say 'I don't even want them found at this point,' because they've already dealt with it and moved on with their life."

Mandt pointed to families of two unsolved murder victims who have helped build out their respective crime door scenes on the app.

Kelsi German, sister of Libby German, one of two victims slain in Delphi, Indiana, in 2017, has given CrimeDoor details on what her 15-year-old sister looked like at the time of her murder, and the murder scene itself, Mandt said. Family members of Rebecca Zahau, murdered in Coronado, California in 2011, have also helped build out an AR re-creation.

"The awareness on those cases has significantly jumped, as a result of our efforts," Mandt said.

As CrimeDoor continues to release new material, Mandt and company partner Paul Holes, a former crime investigator, think the app can help crowdsource valuable information for cracking unsolved cases. Holes formerly worked on the Golden State Killer case, which was ultimately solved after decades of empty leads thanks in part to true crime enthusiasts who conducted their own investigations.

Mandt said he is expecting soon to partner with media companies interested in giving viewers an opportunity to dig deeper into crimes they feature on their programs, pointing to a hypothetical example of Dateline NBC. He previously told dot.LA that such an arrangement would involve a revenue share; he did not cite specific partners but noted that announcements should be forthcoming.

CrimeDoor is free to use, but accessing a door costs $1.99. Users can also purchase unlimited door access for $4.99 per month. Mandt would not say how much money the company has earned but noted that 7% of users make a purchase, suggesting about 15,400 of the 220,000 downloads over the past six weeks brought in some cash.

Influencer marketing has been key to the app's rise, Mandt said, noting that the $5,000 or so the company has spent on that channel represents the vast majority of its advertising expenses.

After Snake shared the hype clip on her TikTok, other influencers chimed in, for free. A YouTuber who goes by cjades, with 287,000 subscribers, narrated a side-by-side walkthrough of a crime door, saying, "I thought this was absolutely insane and I thought I have to make a video about this." That video, Mandt said, captured about 40,000 views over the next several days.

https://twitter.com/hisamblake
samblake@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Cedars Sinai Health Ventures’ Maureen Klewicki on How Tech Is Changing Health Care

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Maureen Klewicki
Image courtesy of Maureen Klewicki

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Cedars Sinai Health Ventures’ Maureen Klewicki talks about price transparency for health care, the labor shortage crisis and emerging models of health care.

Read more Show less

Have a Look Inside Amazon's New Store in Glendale

Drew Grant

Drew Grant is dot.LA's Senior Editor. She's a media veteran with over 15-plus years covering entertainment and local journalism. During her tenure at The New York Observer, she founded one of their most popular verticals, tvDownload, and transitioned from generalist to Senior Editor of Entertainment and Culture, overseeing a freelance contributor network and ushering in the paper's redesign. More recently, she was Senior Editor of Special Projects at Collider, a writer for RottenTomatoes streaming series on Peacock and a consulting editor at RealClearLife, Ranker and GritDaily. You can find her across all social media platforms as @Videodrew and send tips to drew@dot.la.

Amazon Style Glendale
Image by Joshua Letona

Starting today, Glendale’s most meme-able outdoor mall, The Americana at Brand, will be home to the Amazon Style store—the ecommerce giant’s first foray into brick-and-mortar apparel retail. We got an early sneak peak inside the new digs (located on the corner with Sprinkles Cupcakes, next to H&M and the Apple store) and were able to try out some of its tech-enabled features, which—as ever with Amazon—seek to make the act of shopping as easy as possible.

1. It’s Bigger Than It Looks—Even From the Inside

The floor is massive—laying out original products from Amazon’s own apparel lines alongside name brands like Theory, Adidas and Calvin Klein, as well as several other lines that have up until now only existed online. But the actual store is much larger than the two floors that most customers will only ever see.

Amazon Style is just the front—the homepage, if you will—behind which a large warehouse facility keeps a gigantic surplus of inventory. A floor-to-ceiling glass window on the main floor gives shoppers just a peak behind the scenes, as employees help load industrial-sized elevators with racks of goods to send upstairs to the dressing rooms.

2. Online Shopping IRL

When perusing the store’s bouquet of cottagecore maxi dresses, Kendall & Kylie blazers and, yes, a whole section dedicated to Y2K apparel, one doesn’t just pick an item off the rack and take it with you while you shop. Instead, each rack has a barcode that you can scan via the Amazon Shopping app, which has your sizes pre-loaded from previous purchases. (Though you can, of course, opt for a different size if you choose.) That cues an AI-enabled algorithm to start searching through the store’s warehoused catalog and zip the desired item over to the second floor, where the dressing room provides its own glimpse into the future of shopping.

The store also boasts a version of The Drop, a Style staple that allows online customers to shop an entire influencer-curated collections for a 30-hour flash window.

3. Changing Stations of the Future—Today

Your phone also acts as your keycard to get into your personal dressing room. To prevent waiting, you are put in a virtual cue the moment you scan your first item; should your screen prompt that your room is ready while you’re still shopping, a press of a button allows you to hold your spot in the queue while freeing up the room for someone else. (I have no idea how any of this works if your phone dies; ostensibly it can’t, and you will be forced to go home empty-handed—or worse, to The Cheesecake Factory while your device charges.)

Amazon Style’s dressing rooms offer a tech-enabled twist to trying on clothes.Image by Joshua Letona

The changing room is like its own parlor trick. Designed to look like a walk-in closet, one wall has a full length mirror and a giant touchscreen while another has all the clothes you scanned in your style and size preference. Expect to see a few surprises in there, as the algorithm picks out other stuff you might want to try on based on your picks. It would be spooky if it wasn’t so convenient—an IRL mashup of the online retailer’s “Recommended Based on Your Purchases” and “Frequently Bought Together” features.

If an item doesn’t fit quite right or you want to see how a skirt looks in blue instead of black, just tap the touchscreen to request a variant. Or an entirely new outfit, as the screen makes available everything in the facility. Then just bring it down to checkout...perhaps the wildest part of this ride.

4. Palming the Bucks

Checking out of Amazon Style’s flagship store is what really blew my mind—although apparently it’s because I haven’t been to one of the Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods locations where cashless checkouts have been an option in select locations since 2020

I assumed you would just walk out the door with it, because I watch Saturday Night Live sketches for news. While the Go payment option isn't available at Amazon Style, there are several checkout options to keep the experience as frictionless and non-cumbersome as possible.

In one scenario, you take the clothes you want out of the dressing room, and go directly to Amazon’s palm-enabled checkout kiosks. That’s right: register on the spot for an Amazon One account, and you need merely to wave your hand over a little black device that reads your palm and charges your on-file payment method. Super convienent for everyone except $10 boardwalk psychics, who are about to be put out of business.

For the more traditional set, you still have the option of paying via credit card or cash.

Shoppers can check out of Amazon Style with the wave of a palm. Image by Joshua Letona

5. Supply & Demand & Return

Amazon Style’s brick-and-mortar location opens up a variety of new ways to shop, return and exchange clothing. For instance, you can order a load of clothes online and pick them up in the store; anything you don’t want can be returned in the store without you ever having to print a shipping label.

See something you like but don’t have time to try it on? Just scan the barcode, pick it up at the front of the store and pay on your way out without ever going into a dressing room.

The Amazon Shopping app also boasts a Deals feature, which automatically sorts for the best price on items to help customers either save money (or believe they are).

While Glendale is home to the only Style store so far, Amazon isn’t ruling out more locations. With fewer retailers able to afford rents on America’s main strips and shopping malls, Amazon’s resources—and its unique position at the intersection of tech and retail—make it easy to envision more Style stores on the horizon.

A Look Inside Amazon's New Retail Store in Glendale

Image by Joshua Letona

Gaming Will Keep Growing Despite Economic Woes, Netflix Exec Says

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Gaming Will Keep Growing Despite Economic Woes, Netflix Exec Says
Photo courtesy of Netflix

The economic headwinds that are hurting tech companies these days won’t halt gaming’s growing popularity, according to Netflix Vice President of Games Mike Verdu.

During a panel discussion Tuesday at the Montgomery Summit conference in Santa Monica, Verdu said the roughly 3 billion people who currently play video games will continue to grow in number. He agreed that gaming can even be countercyclical—meaning that the industry can sometimes do better during tough economic conditions. And he predicted that the industry will continue to see more consolidation as tech and media giants, including Netflix, gobble up game developers.

Read more Show less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending