True crime is the most popular genre of content.
That’s according to Emmy award-winning producer Neil Mandt and media veteran Lauren Mandt, the couple behind CrimeDoor, an augmented reality app that recreates crime scenes.
In a discussion on how to provide victims of crime a voice, the Mandt’s unpacked their backgrounds and the motives behind CrimeDoor.
Origin Story: The Mandts are media veterans.
Neil, who is a five-time Emmy award-winning producer, director and technology entrepreneur, has written, directed and produced video during his time in media.
He was a reporter in Detroit and then a producer for ABC.
“I was in charge of the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, most notably, and the Oklahoma City bombing. Then, I came to Hollywood [and] started writing and directing feature films.”
Lauren, on the other hand, worked mostly in spa and fashion marketing.
“Neil and I met and combined forces. I was able to bring what I learned in marketing and branding to his production company.”
Neil and Lauren Mandt.
After a decade-long run in television, producing the Olympics, Super Bowl, IndyCar, and New Year’s Eve, among other events, Neil moved over to immersive media, which imitates the physical world through digital simulation.
“We both had been working the immersive space together since 2015,” Neil said. “Lauren was more on the operation side and I was on the creative side.”
After the success of Pokémon GO, the couple was looking to create similar experiences, adding value to other two-dimensional content.
Lauren was an avid enthusiast of true crime, a genre of content that experienced tremendous popularity in recent years given the rise of podcasting and other ways to unpack crime narratives.
“A year-and-a-half ago, Lauren and I were watching 'The Staircase' on Netflix,” Neil said. “I wanted to know more about it and thought, how can we get [information] more efficiently. I asked Lauren: ‘Where’s the home base, the ESPN.com,’ for true crime?”
After discovering that no such outlet exists, Lauren and Neal looked at ways to create it.
How It Works: The CrimeDoor platform allows users to consume over 60,000 hours of true crime content for free.
It works like this — app users pick a case and scan the floor using their phone. The app, through embedded AR technology, superimposes crime scenes derived from photo and video evidence on a user’s surroundings.
Using in-app controls, users can then tour the three-dimensional crime scenes modeled by companies that make Marvel-type movies.
CrimeDoor prides itself on attention to detail.
“Accuracy is really one of the pillars of the company, and staying neutral,” Lauren said. “We gather all the photos, videos and articles on the internet and curate them. A user can get a more thought-based discussion in the podcast section, so we can really dig deeper.”
The app is essentially a rabbit hole for true crime, even connecting users to outlets like Amazon to learn more about particular crimes through available books and documentaries.
“It’s really about giving a voice to the victims,” Lauren said in a discussion on CrimeDoor’s collaboration with surviving family members.
Kelsi German, a surviving family member of a victim in the Delphi murders, was consulted on the accuracy of CrimeDoor visuals.
“We’ve had a lot of great partnerships and, with some of our doors, we are working with families,” she said. “We’re working with Kelsi German, the sister of one of the girls who was murdered, and so she’s trying to keep the awareness going, keep people talking, trying to solve this case.”
The App's Growth: “The key thing is finding high-quality artists who can ... handbuild that shoe, cigarette pack, lipstick case, a person’s body, walls and couch,” Neil said.
After crime scenes are re-made using 3D modeling programs, artists upload their work onto CrimeDoor’s server for app users to view.
Pictured: Pablo Escobar’s crime scene visualized through CrimeDoor.
The feedback has been great, the couple told Benzinga.
After launching on Jan. 10 and spending only $8,000 on influencer marketing, the company hit nearly 250,000 downloads.
Neil attributes much of the growth to in-app detail and profit-sharing opportunities for creative partners.
“Who would benefit from that added value?” Neil asked. “The podcaster, the television show, the newspaper.”
CrimeDoor will work with creators to recreate scenes, splitting revenue from in-app advertisements and the like.
“They’re being paid for creating additional content, which is a no-brainer marketing tool,” Neil said. “It becomes an annuity and a new library of content that they own and can continuously syndicate to other platforms as AR becomes more of a thing.
“If it is a Dateline [NBC] episode, at the end of the episode, they’d say: ‘To experience tonight’s episode, go to our CrimeDoor.’ If you can imagine, the discussions we’ve had with media companies have [generated] a lot of interest.”
Aside from generating revenue through content partnerships with leading global media companies, CrimeDoor may add premium content subscriptions.
CrimeDoor's Aspirations: The advancement of the spatial web, Neil says.
“We went from a mainframe computer to a desktop, to mobile, to now things are going to go spatial. The whole internet will be three-dimensional.”
CrimeDoor believes it’s at the forefront of a revolution in regards to the way content is consumed.
“Your brain is being activated in an entirely different manner, which is good because it imprints a better memory,” Neil said in a discussion on how AR and VR will impact everything from entertainment to education.
Ultimately, the company is committed to solving crimes and bringing closure to loved ones.
“We always bring ourselves back to the main point of like true crime is real crime,” Lauren said. “Let’s think about who we’re talking about and affecting, and be really mindful and try to help these people that we’re including in our app.”
To learn more about CrimeDoor, click here.
Photo by Kat Wilcox from Pexels.
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