Modern-day paranormal investigation tends to evolve with technology. Ever since hand-held thermal imaging devices became affordable, investigators have used them to potentially map ghostly figures. XBox Connect sensors were adapted into SLS cameras to map stick figures that we couldn't see with the human eye. LiDAR, Face scanning and lots of other recognition technology is constantly evolving and showing up in ghost apps across smart phones.
Check out my article LiDAR, Face ID Technology and the paranormal
The newest technology that has people buzzing is what is called HADAR. Heat-Assisted Detection And Ranging. The technology has been developed and tested at Purdue and Michigan State Universities. It is quite intriguing because the technology has been developed in a way to fill in some of the short comings of thermal and LiDAR technologies. It also makes me wonder just how long before paranormal investigators start using it too.
The technology itself has been developed specifically for autonomous vehicles and robots to be able to navigate within a pitch-black setting. They would also need to be able to predict what is happening in their surroundings such as if there was another moving object about to cross their path so that they don't just crash through it. Previously, these kinds of machines have used a combination of SONAR, RADAR and LiDAR. What is missing from this is heat. Without heat, any images taken come back hazy and tend to lack definition. This is where HADAR comes in.
To answer this question I am quoting straight from the source as this technology is still under development.
Traditional active sensors like LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, radar and sonar emit signals and subsequently receive them to collect 3D information about a scene. These methods have drawbacks that increase as they are scaled up, including signal interference and risks to people’s eye safety. In comparison, video cameras that work based on sunlight or other sources of illumination are advantageous, but low-light conditions such as nighttime, fog or rain present a serious impediment.
Traditional thermal imaging is a fully passive sensing method that collects invisible heat radiation originating from all objects in a scene. It can sense through darkness, inclement weather and solar glare. But Jacob said fundamental challenges hinder its use today.
“Objects and their environment constantly emit and scatter thermal radiation, leading to textureless images famously known as the ‘ghosting effect,’” Bao said. “Thermal pictures of a person’s face show only contours and some temperature contrast; there are no features, making it seem like you have seen a ghost. This loss of information, texture and features is a roadblock for machine perception using heat radiation.”
HADAR combines thermal physics, infrared imaging and machine learning to pave the way to fully passive and physics-aware machine perception.
Effectively, this technology can give a machine the ability to see night as if it were daytime. Now this is still in the very early phases, but that doesn't mean that in the future it won't be rolled out as a standard feature on a smartphone or as a smart device. We all know that paranormal investigators like to adapt and use technology purposed for other areas as tools to gather evidence in their pursuit of finding something paranormal. If this does what it says it does, will it have the potential to allow us to see ghosts? Interestingly the above quote talks about human biases and indicates that technology will do all the work when it comes to perception. Will this eliminate some of the arguments on human perception?
Whether it is thermal imaging, LiDAR, face scanning or some other sort of technology, we have found that technology is always fallible to some extent. Using the principle of photography, a lot of what can go wrong with a photo and be misinterpreted as something paranormal is based on how the sensor in the camera is reading the light. I believe this kind of form of technology to be in the same sort of category. When devices are constantly mapping and measuring light, the smallest change can show up as an anomaly. Does that mean that something paranormal has happened or is it just how it is reading the environment? Even moving a camera too fast means the sensor has to catch up and it can cause a type of glitch on the screen which could be a weird shape or if you are mapping a figure it could map a figure it thought was the door. Much like the way pareidolia works, it is constantly trying to find meaning. When it can't, it tries to fill in the blanks as our brains do and we see a face in the cloud. Think of all the times when taking a selfie and suddenly it pops a filter or puppy ears on something in the background that is not there. It doesn't mean your phone has found a ghost, it is just confused because it is constantly trying to map something. We also have to take into account that even as good as technology is, it can get things wrong. The concept of machine perception while interesting is concerning. The developments in AI show us that when you take out the human element, things can turn out to be clearly AI-driven or machine-like because the human perception of more so the human touch is required.
We then have to wonder about own involvement with the paranormal as well. Is it the human aspect that is the essential key to paranormal experience? I mean at the end of the day it is us humans who are experiencing it. It we take that human element out, what are we left with?
I am really interested to see where this technology goes and no doubt in a couple of years, I fully expect this to be utilised in the world of paranormal investigation.
Fanglin Bao, Xueji Wang, Shree Hari Sureshbabu, Gautam Sreekumar, Liping Yang, Vaneet Aggarwal, Vishnu N. Boddeti, Zubin Jacob. Heat-assisted detection and ranging. Nature, 2023; 619 (7971): 743 DOI: 10.1038/s41586-023-06174-6
Image Source: Purdue
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