Digital innovation celebrated at the House of Lords

"Digital Forensic Archaeology is an innovative collaboration between researchers across a wide range of disciplines and one that we hope will have a wide-ranging impact on the investigation of crime in the UK and across Europe."

Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, Associate Professor in Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation

Researchers from Staffordshire University have scooped a top award for digital innovation at a ceremony held at the House of Lords.

They were announced winners of the Innovative Digital Applications Award category at the O2 NextGen Digital Challenge Awards held on October 13.

The Dig For-Arch project seeks to develop and apply novel digital recording methods from archaeology and games technology to complex criminal investigations.

Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls, Associate Professor in Forensic Archaeology and Genocide Investigation is working with colleagues in Computer Games Design and a number of external partners including Staffordshire Police, Advanced Laser Imaging and Epic Games to develop and apply new digital recording methods and 5D, 4D and 3D modeling techniques for use by forensic archaeologists and crime scene investigators.

Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls said: “We are absolutely delighted to have received this award for our project. Digital Forensic Archaeology is an innovative collaboration between researchers across a wide range of disciplines and one that we hope will have a wide-ranging impact on the investigation of crime in the UK and across Europe. It is fantastic that the O2 NextGen judging panel have recognised this impact.”

Early this year, the project featured on BBC Crimewatch showcasing an initial reconstruction (rendered using gaming software Unreal Engine 4) which allows the Police, scientific experts or jury members to complete a virtual walk-through of a crime scene using a Virtual Reality (VR) motion capture headset.

Dante Abate, an experienced researcher with a background in digital archaeology, will join the Staffordshire University team to work on the project for two years, facilitated by an EU Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant.

Dr Sturdy Colls added: “In the spirit of the Digital Applications award we have received, we will continue to develop a range of novel applications to record and visualise a wide range of crime scenes – from domestic scenes in the UK for example, through to sites of recent and historic mass violence across Europe. Over the next two years, we hope to continue to make significant advances in the ways crime scenes are documented and examined in Court.”

Speaking at the event, Lord Erroll said: “Imagination and innovation in applied digital technologies is often the result of a collaboration between two or more specialist fields.  Time and again this inter-disciplinary process is demonstrated in the case studies that come before the judging panel – new ways of applying digital expertise and insight in unexpected corners of the economy and communities.”

Speaking for O2 Telefonica UK, Head of ICT Sales, Peter Asman noted that “The quality of entries across the board was spectacular, and with these awards highlighting the importance of digital and innovation, the need for organisations to continue to develop and grow in these areas is more apparent than ever.”

Find more information about the project here.

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