One of the latest tools used in paranormal research is the Microsoft Kinect. The Kinect is a motion sensing input device used for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. This device was developed to enable people to control and interact with their console/computer without the need for a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands. The first-generation Kinect was first introduced in November 2010, A newer version, Kinect 2.0, was released with the Xbox One platform starting in 2013.
So before we discuss the use of this device for paranormal research, let’s take a look at how the device works.
The original Kinect has four major components, first there is a 4 microphone array used to pinpoint the location of voices or sounds while filtering out background noise. Second is the IR emitter, this projects a pattern of infrared light into the environment. As the light hits a surface the pattern is distorted and this distortion is read by the depth camera. Third is the Depth Camera, this analyzes the IR patterns in the environment and builds a 3D map of the room as well as people and and objects within it. Finally there is an IR camera; this is just like any other IR webcam out there.
The Kinect One (V2) has the same major components but improved in many ways. For instance, the new Kinect uses a time of flight camera that emits light signals and then measures how long it takes them to return. That needs to be accurate to 1/10,000,000,000 of a second.
Here are the specs for both camera systems; it is easier to show you than explain them.
Feature Kinect V1 Kinect V2
Color Camera 640×480 30FPS 1920×1080 30FPS
Depth Camera 300×240 512×424
Max Depth Distance 14 ¾ feet 14 ¾ feet
Min Depth Distance 15 Inches 19 ½ Inches
Horizontal Field of View 57 degrees 70 Degrees
Vertical Field of View 43 Degrees 60 Degrees
Tilt Motor Yes No
# Of Skeletal Joints 20 26
# of Skeletons Tracked 2 6
USB Standard USB 2 USB 3
So there are obvious mechanical improvements, and because of these improvements to the hardware, it allowed the software algorithm and accuracy to advance by leaps and bounds.
Video by Earthbound Voices Paranormal
So now we have a general idea of how the Kinect works, so how is it being used in paranormal research? Well, from the YouTube videos, and the TV shows…You basically turn it on and wait for a ghost to show up as a skeleton. The skeleton tracking is actually a two step process, first a depth map is created using the structured light, and then you infer the skeleton using a second software program. Here is where the problem lies, the second program algorithm is seriously flawed, body parts are inferred using a randomized decision forest, learned from over 1 million training examples, what happens when the Kinect detects something in the environment that is not in one of those training examples? You guessed it…..a skeletal figure is attaches to that object or surface and waits for movement to decide what decision to make next. I did an experiment using both the Kinect V1 and the Kinect V2; since one runs on USB 2 and the other runs on USB 3 I was able to run both at the same time. The Kinect V1 picked up on several surfaces and planted a skeleton on them, including my refrigerator, while the Kinect V2 saw nothing. It is obvious to me that the reason for this is the improved fidelity and accuracy of the algorithms. Or was there really a ghost on my fridge?
So where did the idea come from that a Kinect could detect and lock onto something paranormal? To this point I have not been able to track any of these hypotheses down. Speaking from a scientific point of view there are a lot of problems with the Kinect being able to detect something paranormal in the first place, based on current paranormal hypotheses. Now, for the elephant in the room. The current hypothesis is that a spirit or ghost is a form of energy, so how can the Kinect detect “spirit energy” using electromagnetic energy (IR light)? OK, please explain how “spirit energy” (which nobody knows what it is) interacts with the IR light through absorption, transmission, or reflection? These interactions require matter, not energy. So the idea in itself is the complete opposite of what a ghost is supposed to be, unless it is used to fit ones narrative or agenda, then you can completely ignore the hypothesis that this is based on in the first place. Watch a few TV shows and you will see this quite often.
I will never say the Kinect couldn’t detect something paranormal, we have no idea what a ghost consists of, if ghosts exist. Remember, this Kinect system was developed to interact with a person, meat and bones….not a ghost or spirit made of energy.
I experiment with the Kinect all of the time, I write software, try new methods to collect information from the data streams. And I will be honest with you, I have captured some things on video that are unexplained, It doesn’t mean it is a ghost, just that I cannot explain them. For instance, I was looking at the laptop monitor during an investigation, in the IR window I could clearly see something on the left-hand side of a doorframe, But on the Depth field window there was nothing, so how can this be? The only logical conclusion that I can make is that the 3D environmental map depends on the information coming from the IR stream (the light bouncing back from an object) The IR light never sent any information back from that location, telling me that the IR light passed through the anomaly. Can I prove this? No, I can’t. But it is the best explanation I can come up with, it is my hypothesis. But just because I cannot explain it doesn’t mean that it is paranormal either….I was looking at this live when it happened, I turned on the flashlight and saw nothing in the doorway, I am just left scratching my head on this one.
Another instance took place at Pioneer Cemetery in the Tuscarora State Forest in PA. I was playing around with the depth field data when a skeleton locked onto what I thought was the headstone, however headstones don’t run away.
Again, I have no explanation for this documentation, but it doesn’t mean it is paranormal.
If you have a hypothesis on how he Kinect could detect the paranormal, please share your ideas, I am not writing this article to ridicule anyone for trying something new as long as there is a solid and somewhat reasonable explanation for your “best guess”. I would love nothing more than for someone to form a hypothesis, and develop a working theory using the Kinect. There are too many investigators out there throwing videos of the Kinect capturing ghosts out there, most of which are unfounded. Not one single time have I seen anyone try to explain what they have documented, nor have I ever seen anyone simply say…I don’t know what caused that, it is always a ghost. So don’t you think it is a good idea to at least make an attempt at understanding the technology you are using? I have tried to explain this information to people on YouTube, and all I get is “you’re a troll” or “one of those people blah, blah, blah,” or my favorite “you are closed minded”. So my best guess is that if I am not buying the crap you are shoveling I am closed minded? The truth is I am anything but. This is the whole point of this article. I understand and accept the possibility that when I document something that appears to be paranormal there could be other logical explanations, it is you that is closed minded for not opening your mind to other possible explanations, save it for your Pied Piper Para-Zombies who will blindly follow you off of a cliff……