By: April Abercrombie

Lately people have been submitting photos (screenshots) containing weird faces from their Snapchat apps, which they are concerned may be paranormal in nature.

The Snapchat app has a facial recognition feature built into it that allows the app to map your face, creating a mask. This allows the user to add various silly faces and effects to their image. These masks are completely animated, and will move and react with your facial expressions. It is just for fun, but the technology really is quite remarkable.

How the filters work:

The facial recognition software uses your device’s camera to scan for your face, looking for contrast areas (areas that are lighter or darker in color tone), which tells it where to place a series of points. Once it places these points, it matches them up to its pre-programmed facial features, adjusting them where necessary to match your own unique facial features as closely as possible. It then creates a mask based on this data, which is fully animated and can move, and in some cases, emote with you.

It is not perfect. In all of that mapping and image comparing, it doesn’t always work as expected. You might get a mask that doesn’t fit quite right. Also, it can only find your face straight on front view. If you turn too far to the side or tilt the camera too far, it will lose sight of your face. Lighting is also a factor. Because it is looking for high contrast areas, if your image is too bright or too dark, it will have problems locating your face.

When the software loses track of your face, it tries to relocate it, and then redraws the mask. The problem is, it doesn’t always relocate your face. It can locate another object in view, and be tricked into thinking that is your face.

In other words, just like the human brain, it can experience cases of pareidolia. It may map a face on a ceiling, furniture, a light fixture, etc.

There are a series of different face masks you can choose, one in particular allows you to pick another person’s face out of your existing photos and it will place that face over your own. This can appear very creepy if it manages to map the face where you wouldn’t expect it.

I am including a sample screenshot taken from my phone where the face mask mapped onto a lamp behind me, when I panned the camera too far.

Could this Snapchat filter phenomena ever be considered paranormal?

The reality of it is, most likely not.

Firstly because there have never been any confirmed photos of ghosts. It may not even be possible to catch a ghost in a photo, even if they do exist.

Secondly, there are far too many variables involved with the facial recognition technology employed by Snapchat, not to mention all the variables that go into photography itself, to ever say for certain that your Snapchat filter has found a ghost.

So in closing… even with it being as creepy as it sometimes can be, weird snapchat filter images are completely normal and explainable.

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April Abercrombie

April Abercrombie

I was Case Manager for Denver Paranormal Research Society for nearly 4 years. While on the team, I primarily conducted investigations for clients of their private residences. I have since left Denver Paranormal to pursue my own research and conduct investigations of haunted locations. I now focus mostly on historical places.
April Abercrombie

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