Your Aura is Showing
May 14, 2010 12:53 PM   Subscribe

The Aura Camera was developed in the 1970s by Polaroid as a way to see auras around people as a psychic might. Though very rare, Carlo Van De Roer managed to get his hands on an AuraCam 6000 to capture a stunningly unique series of portraits [some mildly NSFW].
posted by tuck_nroll (44 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A little NSFW warning might've been nice.
posted by mullingitover at 1:02 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

How does auraphotography work?
Each of our products uses a hand sensor, seen on the image to the right. A person would put their left (or right) hand onto the hand sensors. This in turn would allow a particular product to measure the standardized biofeedback parameter. The hand sensor itself has various contact points on them; these are connected with certain organs of the body, as well as measure the electromagnetic field of the user and can thus deliver information about the energetic and auric qualities of that person. The hand sensor can also measure deviations in temperature, humidity and static electricity in the environment and the person, allowing for greater precision in data gathering. These data parameters are then projected as a radiant, colored aura field around the body on either a Polaroid photo or onto a computer or television screen. In no time thereafter, a brilliant color photo or computer print out can be presented to the user.

So, scientography. Whoopee.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:02 PM on May 14, 2010

A little NSFW warning might've been nice.

Sorry about that, I have a very lenient workplace.
posted by tuck_nroll at 1:05 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

So how does it work optically? Is it just a bunch of colored lights seen through a beam-splitter? If so... then meh.

Not nearly as interestinga as the Richenbacker Phantasmagorion.
posted by warbaby at 1:07 PM on May 14, 2010

Naked person photo desaturate then tweak exposure, new layer with radial fill negative burn edges then liquefy and shrink a bit.
posted by Damienmce at 1:07 PM on May 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

And then adjust transparency!
posted by Damienmce at 1:08 PM on May 14, 2010

Nah, set blend mode to Vivid Light and take a nap.
posted by dbiedny at 1:10 PM on May 14, 2010

That's odd. It says here that the AuraCam 6000 was developed not by Polaroid in 1970's, but by some bloke called Guy Coggins in 1992. And it's hardly "very rare", as you can find tons of sites selling the thing when you google for it.

Oh, and did I mention that the whole aura thing is a load of rubbish?
posted by daniel_charms at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah I'm looking for evidence that Polaroid corp had anything to do with this product. The woowoo web pages I'm finding all look like someone modified a retail Polaroid camera, or are using Polaroid film. Not "developed by Polaroid". Which is too bad, because it'd be awesome-weird if they really did build it.
posted by Nelson at 1:13 PM on May 14, 2010

Unfortunately most of so-called "aura cameras" use a photographic trick called photo-montage to create an illusion of the Aura..
These cameras have light source(s) inside, which illuminate the film directly. Internal lights are controlled by a simple measurement of skin resistance.
posted by mrbill at 1:13 PM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

warbaby: basically, a computer program is used to generate the colour pattern and the result is pasted to the photo.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:14 PM on May 14, 2010

If I wanted to see some soft focus, poorly lit pictures of naked people, I'd watch porn.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2010

I snark because I care.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:16 PM on May 14, 2010

So these pictures of sham psychic nonsense are themselves a sham?

On the one hand, predictable. On the other, I definitely puts meta in my metafilter.
posted by mhoye at 1:17 PM on May 14, 2010

the AuraCam 6000 was developed not by Polaroid in 1970's, but by some bloke called Guy Coggins in 1992

This article also says it was developed by Guy Coggins by modifying a polaroid camera, although it says it was in the 70's.

I definitely don't buy into the idea that a camera can see psychic auras, but I do think it's oddball enough to merit a fingerpoint.
posted by tuck_nroll at 1:21 PM on May 14, 2010

I had one of these done at a psychic fair in the early eighties. Purple.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:22 PM on May 14, 2010

There is some interesting stuff here. The photograph of Richard Kern is good.
posted by chunking express at 1:23 PM on May 14, 2010

the AuraCam 6000 was developed not by Polaroid in 1970's, but by some bloke called Guy Coggins in 1992

It's not really a Polaroid product, but it uses the astral projection of a Polaroid camera.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:24 PM on May 14, 2010

Their Boards of Canada filter goes up to 11.

I rather like BoC, and "computer generated charts" in color-coded ASCII, so I'm a fan.

There are also modern versions, for installation at your local mall or amusement park, and then there's the play-at-home version. These look more like the FPP gallery (as Burhanistan pointed out) than the Kirlian Aura Camera that mrbill's link debunks, though it goes on to state:
No Kirlian camera can record TRUE COLOUR of our Aura, even if they use colour films. This is because 3 colour film (RGB or CMYK) cannot record spectral information of light. At present Kirlian cameras can reliably record only the intensity distribution of the Aura.
That debunker site also links to a site that mentions that the earth might EXPLODE due to global warming ("We are not the first "civilization" on Earth to be wiped out due to the lack of understanding of Nature. Are we to be the LAST one?").
posted by filthy light thief at 1:34 PM on May 14, 2010

Clearly this is the technology that got Mamzelle Gaga's interest.
posted by Babblesort at 1:34 PM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking it's a variant of Pepper's Ghost.

The skin galvanic response thingy is just mystification doubling as a somewhat random input for controlling the lights.

But not photoshop....
posted by warbaby at 1:55 PM on May 14, 2010

Mmm, LSD photography.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:01 PM on May 14, 2010

It's like a splitting of the world!
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on May 14, 2010

When using your Tillinghast resonator please remember that when you can see intradimensional entities THEY CAN SEE YOU.
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

reminds me of this guy who I know...

Would you happen to know anything about how he gets that look on his portraits? I would expect it's mostly done in post but there are some funny qualities about those 'thousand souls' portraits that look pretty unplanned.
posted by tuck_nroll at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2010

My main reaction to this was surprise at seeing Richard Kern as a model. I really love his photography, but I don't think I'd ever seen him model. If you know his work, it seems totally appropriate that he's pictured grabbing some boobs, though.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2010

I was really hoping Polaroid was involved. It's awesome when big companies act weird. And it would make hiring Lady Gaga seem less random.

Now it looks like it's just kooks and or charlatans hawking woo. Which is also entertaining, but far too common.
posted by mccarty.tim at 2:39 PM on May 14, 2010

I added a little NSFW indicator, carry on.
posted by jessamyn at 2:55 PM on May 14, 2010

posted by Harry at 3:02 PM on May 14, 2010

There is some interesting stuff here. The photograph of Richard Kern is good.

This is also mildly NSFW. And also mildly humorous.
posted by Big_B at 4:01 PM on May 14, 2010

The skin galvanic response thingy is just mystification doubling as a somewhat random input for controlling the lights.

Correct. I recall seeing this exact camera in operation at a "Psychic Faire" that my stupid girlfriend-of-that-time dragged me to, sometime in the 1980s. Other than the lens, t didn't have any inputs other than a couple of little knobs the guy turned. I watched some pictures being taken and then discreetly questioned the guy, I challenged him and said it didn't really take pictures of auras. He said it took "an artistic impression of an aura, an artist's concept." Yeah. I asked how he did it and he said the two knobs moved around some optics to project a random colorful field onto the film, he looked through the viewfinder and diddled the knobs until he got a pattern he liked.

In other words, 100% fakery.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:51 PM on May 14, 2010

I definitely don't buy into the idea that a camera can see psychic auras

Mostly because there's no such thing as a psychic aura.
posted by Justinian at 4:56 PM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Wow, your aura is really fantastic! It's this beautiful purple color."

"I love you."

"I missed the last thing you said."

"Your aura is purple!"

"I love you."


"Purple! It's purple!"

"Mom, what?"

"Your aura is purple!"

"I miss you and I love you!"

"I love you."
posted by bwg at 5:47 PM on May 14, 2010

posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:56 PM on May 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

These would make great covers for LPs of cheesy 70s smooth Moog makeout music.
posted by carter at 9:11 PM on May 14, 2010

But if it's a metaphor, how can it weigh 600 pounds?
posted by LogicalDash at 10:47 PM on May 14, 2010

thanks, charlie don't surf.

I enjoy making optical toys, but there are cooler ways to do this; color schlieren systems, for instance.
posted by warbaby at 7:12 AM on May 15, 2010

Wow, these are pretty terrible.
posted by dozo at 9:31 AM on May 15, 2010

This FPP is decidedly Meh.
posted by Vindaloo at 11:24 AM on May 15, 2010

This reminds me of another wretched photo gimmick I was once called upon to install during my tenure at the museum. It was this hand-wavey, magical photobooth that supposedly rendered your face as someone of another race, except that it was a technical nightmare, delivered to me without any kind of instructions beyond a wrinkly second generation photocopy of some vague Windows scripts. It had a fragile, exposed camera, half-written software that let every single kid in a school group shut down the program and erase hard drive partitions, and this half-silvered angled mirror hiding a monitor, and it was the bane of my existence.

"Joe, the XYZ machine [I'm not going to mention the name of the damn thing] is broken again," came the endless calls, and I replaced a hundred trackball balls, fixed the camera over and over, and installed the software over and over (it used Windows 2000 with strange patches that didn't work on the machines we got, though, as I said, there was no documentation of what hardware was actually required for the setup), and I generally dreamed nightly about going into the two booths with a sledgehammer and simplifying my job.

The best part was this—all that technology basically did this:

1. Take subject's picture.
2. Require subject to click on their eyes, nose, and mouth in the picture.
3. Adjusted the gamma of the picture and pasted a mask of some generic black person/asian/latino/whatever over your picture, with transparent areas for your eyes, nose, and mouth so it would sort of look like you.

Of course, visitors loved it.

Never mind that the damn thing was developed by some artist and attached spouse, who were in the middle of a raging, opposite-of-amicable divorce and wouldn't speak to or about each other, or support the goddamned steaming lump of sideshow kumbayahtron they'd foisted on the world. Oh, it's in a treasured and nationally-prominent museum that's unique in the country? Well, maybe you should ask him to fix his bad software.

Now, judging from the multiple websites for the thing, it's obviously been improved and standardized somehow, but the end result is still the digital equivalent of sticking your face through a cutout down at the midway or standing in front of a wavy mirror and shrieking "Omigod, look how fat my thighs look!"

I don't need to see an aura to know who someone is—I can talk to them.

We're a weird lot, us western true seekers.
posted by sonascope at 1:28 PM on May 15, 2010

It seems like this whole concept was belched forth from a sticky orifice in the side of the beast responsible for the whole selling crystals thing
posted by tehloki at 3:49 PM on May 15, 2010

The text descriptions are far too standardized and overwhelmingly positive. It need some descriptions such as "You are: a total asshole, needy, neurotic, passive aggressive" and "People see you as: cynical, sarcastic, alcoholic, a slut, a whiner, willing to trample over anyone to get your way."

Also, they need to randomly insert a few with really odd colors, and notes like "You need to see an exorcist RIGHT NOW!" Or "Is your will up to date? If not, can I have your car?"
posted by happyroach at 4:01 PM on May 15, 2010

Well, warbaby, it would be kinda hard for a huckster to milk the rubes on the floor of a convention with a zillion other trade booths, if he had to set up a Schlieren apparatus. Much easier to just fake it with a couple of refractive crystals (ooh, crystals).

Anyway, despite me being a hard rationalist, I also like to delve into the non-rational just to shake things up. I recall Rudolph Steiner wrote about how to make a filter to see the auras of plants, IIRC it was some combination of polarizing filters and a transparent lens cavity filled with a blue colored liquid (methylene blue maybe) but he said you could get the same effect if you looked at large trees if they were backlit against a clear sky with just the right sun angle (a blue sky is polarized light). He described how to view it, and I was able to practice and see the effect, although you have to take pains to make sure you're not just seeing an afterimage of the tree edge against the sky. I've taught people to see this, some can, some can't. I usually take people out to my favorite park viewing spot on a bright summer day and look for the "king trees" that have strong auras that are easy to see. If you look just right, you can see what looks like a faint, transparent, flickering flame at the peak of the tree. No, don't tell me it's refraction through rising water vapor aspirated through the plant leaves, if you ever saw it, you wouldn't think anything like that, it's really a unique and strange experience.
Steiner claimed that anyone could see the aura with his filter, if the plant was sufficiently strong. Now someday I'll have to hunt down his book again, so I can make one of his viewing filters. It would make an interesting experiment.

OK, you can all laugh now at c.d.s. who says he can see the auras of trees.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:37 PM on May 15, 2010

sonascope: "sideshow kumbayahtron"

This, too, will be the name of my new band.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:09 AM on May 16, 2010

« Older Weird Clouds Look Even Better From Space   |   T800 Blue Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments