JOSHUA COHEN is a principal at Fat Pencil Studio.
We've seen huge advancements with augmented and virtual reality in the past five years. Fat Pencil Studio has played with some of the technology, but never found a reason to use it for a client project... until now.
We were retained by the law firm Heinson & DeDoubbelaere to help visualize the impact of a permanent sight impairment sustained after eye surgery to repair a detached retina. The impairment existed in the left eye, resulting in a partial loss of vision in the affected area. We tried adding a transparent gray dot to a video clip, which gives a fair idea of what their client was living with, but it doesn't simulate how the human brain deals with merging stereo vision. Then we tried fixing a small piece of paper to the left side of a smartphone loaded into a Google VR viewer.
The result was quite convincing. The impairment is complete with the right eye closed, and invisible with the left eye closed. With both eyes open, the gray dot is somewhat transparent, and the visibility depends on which eye the brain favors. It’s always there, but becomes less noticeable over time as your brain compensates.
There’s still one big unknown: will a judge allow this sort of exhibit to be used in court? We can’t be sure without trying it, and the answer probably depends on the judge. However, my experience is that judges give wide latitude to demonstrative exhibits that can verified as fair, accurate, and useful to help a jury understand an expert opinion. This case settled before trial, so we didn’t get a chance to test the exhibit in court. Maybe next time!