LiDAR, Face ID Technology and the paranormal

13th January 2022. Reading Time: 11 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 483 page views. 0 comments.

Here are some different ways that paranormal investigators are making use of LiDAR and Face ID technology.

While once mobile phones were an annoying interference to paranormal equipment, they can be useful measuring devices in certain circumstances.   It is important though to understand how it works and what it is measuring.  Here are some different ways that paranormal investigators are making use of LiDAR and Face ID technology.

What is LiDAR?

Lidar, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges of variable distances to the Earth.  These light pulses mixed with other data generate precise, 3D information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.  A normal lidar instrument has a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver. Aeroplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms measuring lidar data over broad areas. Two types of lidar are topographic and bathymetric. Topographic lidar typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land, while bathymetric lidar uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations. It allows scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments.  

In recent years, lidar has been integrated into mobile phone technology.  Dubbed by Apple as LiDAR, it was considered to be 'breakthrough' technology in the palm of our hand.

The breakthrough LiDAR Scanner enables capabilities never before possible on any mobile device. The LiDAR Scanner measures the distance to surrounding objects up to 5 meters away, works both indoors and outdoors, and operates at the photon level at nano-second speeds. New depth frameworks in iPadOS combine depth points measured by the LiDAR Scanner, data from both cameras and motion sensors, and is enhanced by computer vision algorithms on the A12Z Bionic for a more detailed understanding of a scene. The tight integration of these elements enables a whole new class of AR experiences on iPad Pro.
Every existing ARKit app automatically gets instant AR placement, improved motion capture and people occlusion. Using the latest update to ARKit with a new Scene Geometry API, developers can harness the power of the new LiDAR Scanner to unleash scenarios never before possible.
The LiDAR Scanner improves the Measure app, making it faster and easier to automatically calculate someone’s height, while helpful vertical and edge guides automatically appear to let users more quickly and accurately measure objects. The Measure app also now comes with Ruler View for more granular measurements and allows users to save a list of all measurements, complete with screenshots for future use.

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2020/03/apple-unveils-new-ipad-pro-with-lidar-scanner-and-trackpad-support-in-ipados/

This technology means that our mobile phones become far greater tools.  Much in the way that every day measuring electrical equipment has been used as makeshift paranormal detection gear, the same is true with LiDAR technology.  While once mobile phones were an annoying interference to paranormal equipment, they can be useful measuring devices in certain circumstances.  Here are some different ways that paranormal investigators are making use of LiDAR technology.

Nightvision

Paranormal investigators love to be able to see in the dark.  Whether they are using flashlights, infrared or UV light or even thermal cameras, they are a common tool used on paranormal investigations.  LiDAR technology allows phones to be used as makeshift night vision devices.  Here is one example.

While it looks similar to a thermal camera, it is important to note that it is not measuring temperature like a FLIR does.  Unless you attach an actual thermal camera to a phone (which can buy from FLIR) it is measuring light and not temperature.  When it comes to measuring light, it also means there is room for error.  In fact, LiDAR is only around 90% accurate.

Night Vision Imaging Lidar system technology finds many applications including public safety, surveillance, defense etc. This paper describes the constructional features of the Night Vision Imaging Lidar System (NVIL) developed in the laboratory for imaging of targets with at least 90% recognition capability up to a range of about 2 km for field use in night time and up to a range of about 4 km in day time. The system is capable of continues monitoring and store the video. This lidar system is based on a compact Nd: YAG pulsed laser system and uses a novel transmitter receiver configuration. Also the system can be used for the recognition of people at strategic places for security applications. We present the design methodology of the NVIL system and some experimental results obtained when the system is used for imaging the targets during complete dark conditions in the field. The gating technology is also investigated which improve the capability of the system for accurate detections of the targets even under bad weather conditions.

P. Sudhakar, K. A. Sheela and M. Satyanarayana, "Imaging Lidar system for night vision and surveillance applications," 2017 4th International Conference on Advanced Computing and Communication Systems (ICACCS), 2017, pp. 1-6, doi: 10.1109/ICACCS.2017.8014

Now 90% is pretty good don't get me wrong, but it is not 100% when used in night conditions for surveillance which is essentially what a paranormal investigator is doing.  If it is something a person is planning to use as proof of evidence, the 90% doesn't hold quite up, however it could be useful when used with other devices.  If it were me, I would set up a rig that filmed LiDAR, Thermal, Infrared, UV and normal (which would be a big rig) and it gives you a full picture of what is happening and will better allow you to debunk if it is an error with the sensor or potentially something else.  If you don't have access to these, a regular camera with at least a regular light source is useful because if an anomaly does appear on your LiDAR, your regular footage will be able to tell you if it is a picture on the wall for example.  As time goes on this technology will only improve and so will the adaptation of paranormal investigators.

3D Scanning

In the past, we relied on printed or hand-drawn maps of the properties we would investigate.  We can now create 3D scans of the environment around us meaning we can have a much more comprehensive picture of a building.  When it comes to planning or working through simulations, there are benefits I can see with this technology.  If anything, some people may just like having a scaled true 3D scan of their favourite haunt!  We can even 3D scan an object as well.   When you do this, it means you automatically have the schematics to 3D print it as well.

Image Source: sketchfab

Face ID (not LiDAR)

First, it is important to note that Face ID technology is not powered by LiDAR but it made sense to include it here.  In fact, you will see many people associate Face ID with LiDAR but they are not the same and use different technology.

The technology that enables Face ID is some of the most advanced hardware and software that we’ve ever created. The TrueDepth camera captures accurate face data by projecting and analysing thousands of invisible dots to create a depth map of your face and also captures an infrared image of your face. A portion of the neural engine of the A11, A12 Bionic, A12X Bionic, A13 Bionic, A14 Bionic and A15 Bionic chip — protected within the Secure Enclave — transforms the depth map and infrared image into a mathematical representation and compares that representation to the enrolled facial data.

https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT208108

Most phones, computers and even home security are headed toward biometrics for security (and some have been there for a while).  Biometric identification uses body measurements that are set in advance, (in this case face and head), to verify the identity of a person through its facial biometric pattern and data.  In the past, it was something that only existed in spy movies but now it is a common feature in personal technology.  When you are setting up a new phone, for example, it will ask you to press your finger on the touch id several times to set it up.  It will also ask you to move your face in different directions so it can scan all the different features of your face.  We can't see any of this process with the human eye, however, it turns out an infrared camera can.  

This video reminds me of the infrared camera videos I would see of paranormal investigators when using a Kinect or SLS camera.  When you film it using an infrared camera, you get the same dots that are projected from the sensor.  It is really the same kind of principle and in fact, the same technology has been used to make apps that replicate SLS technology which is now used on smart devices.  Some apps use this tech in combination with LiDAR sensors.

Image Source: GhostTube SLS App​​​​​​

Will LiDAR and Face ID Technology show us ghosts?

Personally, I don't think so, but I would love to be proven wrong.  Whether it is LiDAR or SLS cameras, all the devices are basically measuring their surroundings using light.  Remember the thermal filters on smart devices are not measuring temperature they are measuring light (only a FLIR attachment will measure thermal and are still not entirely reliably).  Face ID technology is also not without its flaws.  How many times do you try to unlock your phone and it can't recognise you?  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 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 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 it wrong.  I recently was really impressed and eager to use a function on my phone which was basically a makeshift measuring tape.  You can measure a person's height or even the distance between one point to another.  This was a feature I found particularly helpful when shopping for a new couch.  The problem was the measurements it gave me were not entirely accurate.  Whether I was using it wrong or the light messed with the settings, or maybe I expected too much from it and measured too great of a distance, the point was what I measured didn't end up fitting even though the measurements I took told me they would!  Turned out that while 10cm may not seem like much, it was crucial in this space!  So the point is regardless of it is user error, software or sensor error, there is ALWAYS room for error and that is something that must be taken into account every time an anomaly pops up on the screen.

Of course, that doesn't mean I won't be testing and playing with it and I would love to be proven wrong, but I am also skeptical.  We also have to keep in mind that mobile phone technology does interfere with other devices.  A Kinect SLS camera sets off a REM Pod and as we learnt above, infrared light can see that the sensor is always on. It means that even on aeroplane mode, your phone will still have the potential to set off surrounding devices. 

So what do you think about LiDAR?  Do you use it?  What do you find useful?  Are there false positives you have discovered?  What are the pros and cons?  Sound off in the comments below.


References

P. Sudhakar, K. A. Sheela and M. Satyanarayana, "Imaging Lidar system for night vision and surveillance applications," 2017 4th International Conference on Advanced Computing and Communication Systems (ICACCS), 2017, pp. 1-6, doi: 10.1109/ICACCS.2017.8014690.

https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT208108

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lidar.html

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2020/03/apple-unveils-new-ipad-pro-with-lidar-scanner-and-trackpad-support-in-ipados/

https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/room-scan-by-lidar-scanner-3d-for-2020-ipad-pro-244fa2abe88d4ab2bf646b7e08c38d56

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