Virtual reality is helping to bring the last of Auschwitz’s war criminals to justice

auschwitz virtual reality 161006 story cr0323 03 28a8a432554e933157a216c9f0b5d229 nbcnews ux 2880 1000
More than seven decades have passed since the last prisoners at Auschwitz were liberated, but still, not all those with a hand in the atrocities of the Holocaust have been brought to justice. But now, a new technology is helping to catch some very old war criminals — thanks to breakthroughs in virtual reality, German experts have now found a way to digitally walk through Hitler’s infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, the site of more than 1.1 million murders over the course of World War II. And in this VR representation, investigators and prosecutors can “see” like never before.

In exploring this VR version of Auschwitz, officials don special goggles that allow them to walk about the camp as though they were members of the SS, thereby seeing the landscape through the eyes of a criminal. “The model can be used in trials to counter the objection of suspects who claim that they did not witness executions or marches to gas chambers from their vantage point,” said Jens Rommel, head of Germany’s federal office for the investigation of Nazi war crimes, in an interview with NBC.

While suspects have long stood by the defense of not really knowing what was going on in the death camps, Rommel noted that this new model provides a new way to examine intent. “Must a suspect have known that people were being taken to the gas chambers or shot?” he told AFP. “This model is a very good and very modern tool for the investigation because it can help answer that question.”

The 3D model was created by LKA digital imaging expert Ralf Breker, who believes he has created the most exacting representation of the camp to date. Speaking with AFP, he added, “It is much, much more precise than Google Earth. We use the most modern VR goggles on the market. When I zoom in, I can see the smallest detail.”

Ultimately, officials hope that this simulation will aid in the prosecution of the last alleged war criminals who took part in the horrors of the Holocaust. But even going through the virtual camp (and certainly building it) has proven “one of the most difficult tasks” Breker and his colleagues have ever experienced.

“There are truly no words for it,” Breker said. “Unbelievable.”

Product Review

HTC puts eye-tracking tech in Vive Pro Eye to make next-gen VR hands-free

With the announcement of integrated eye tracking for the Vive Pro Eye, hands-free VR, less demanding high-quality experiences, and intuitive software, are all on the table.
Gaming

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Gaming

Get the full PS4 Pro experience. Here's every game you can play in 4K HDR

The PlayStation 4 Pro can play any PS4 game, but a select number of titles have been optimized to take advantage of the platform. Here's a list of every new and upcoming game that will benefit from the PS4 Pro.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now.
Gaming

The best VR headsets at CES 2019 could bring the technology to the mainstream

While there weren't a ton of new VR headset on display at CES 2019, the ones we saw led us to believe that VR could have a real moment soon, both from a gaming and business standpoint.
Gaming

These shoes let me stroll through ‘Skyrim,’ and I desperately want to go back

After being funded in just two hours on Kickstarter back in October 2018, Cybershoes has earned itself a place among the coolest VR walking and running tech. At CES 2019, we got to try them out and they live up to the hype.
Gaming

These are the coolest virtual and augmented reality gadgets from CES 2019

CES 2019 had plenty of VR and AR gadgets on display, including headsets that completely change how you experience virtual reality, and some that don't even require a PC or a phone to run.
Gaming

The Teslasuit could turn Black Mirror’s terrifying ‘Playtest’ into a reality

We spoke with Teslasuit co-founder Dimitri Mikhalchuk about VR gaming at CES 2019. With all its features, the future of the Teslasuit and virtual reality look bright. And it also sounds a bit like a Black Mirror episode.
Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.