Can MIT Help Solve the Mystery of Bigfoot?
One Sasquatch enthusiast hopes so.
Matt Knapp thinks that Bigfoot research is a mess right now.
“The facts are that in terms of progress, the Bigfoot research community has ultimately made none. We are no closer now to proving these creatures exist than we were 40 years ago,” Knapp told Boston.
Knapp blames the setbacks on the digital age, and the amount of misinformation being spread in the form of photos and videos online. That, and the fact that more people seem to be trying to cash in on what they claim are legitimate Bigfoot sightings. “Self admittedly, up to this point, we have not had anything worth presenting as real evidence of this creature’s existence. If we want scientists to get involved, we have to go by their standards, not our anecdotal ones,” he said.
To help filter out the phonies and fakes all trying to make a quick buck on something he believes in, Knapp is asking those vested in Bigfoot research to rely on technology built out of MIT to prove that the truth is out there.
Knapp, who runs a blog called “Bigfoot Crossroads,” a personal site with updates about all things Sasquatch, recently stumbled upon an invention created by students and researchers in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab in Cambridge in 2012, called “Eulerian Video Magnification.”
EVM is essentially a software that allows users to break down videos to reveal things in them that are invisible to the naked eye. This includes visualizing the blood pulsing behind someone’s cheeks and face, or capturing changes in body behaviors that the average person is unable to detect just by simply staring at someone. EVM does this by “homing in on specific pixels” in a given video, according to the New York Times, and then amplifying those pixels by up to 100 times using complex algorithms.
Knapp seems to believe that if the program can be used for medical diagnostics—it’s intended use when it was publicly introduced in 2012 by the MIT team—then there’s no reason it can’t call out fake videos. “In such a fringe subject as Bigfoot, not everyone is serious about their motives for being involved. There are numerous individuals out there, that for whatever reason present false evidence,” he said. “I feel [this] truly is remarkable and ground breaking technology that will really do some good in the world. Later on after reading about it and watching the videos, I realized that this software could be used in the Bigfoot field as well.”
He hopes that the technology launched by MIT’s team, which was made free for public use and download, will help separate what’s “real” from what’s merely a hoax. “Not only does the EVM software assist in…determining and proving the subject of a video is a living and breathing entity, and not just some guy in a costume, it also opens the door in terms of gaining information about muscle movement and motion,” said Knapp.
Since the Bigfoot research field has no set standards or protocol, and there are very few scientists involved in the study, he would like to see people rely on the technology produced by researchers out of MIT to help sift out the bogus material being disseminated. “The same techniques are being used, the same theories are being rehashed time and time again, and I believe a change is long overdue,” he said.
Already, users online have applied the MIT technology to alleged Bigfoot footage that has been floating around for decades. On March 23, a video was posted to YouTube—and later to Knapp’s blog—of one of the most infamous Sasquatch “sightings” in history. Originally shot by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin in 1967, the person that uploaded the clip applied the EVM technology to try to determine if blood pulses could be detected through the use of the software. Seeing the blood pulses on the large mammal, as it struts through the forest in the short film, could potentially tell Bigfoot researchers if, in fact, it’s the real deal.
While it was a valiant effort and first step, he doesn’t think the person who uploaded the recent clip used the software properly. “It is up to the individuals involved to learn the scientific standards and techniques used, and to implement proper documentation. We are also responsible for our own peer review and examination of the evidence that we do find. If we follow the proper procedures, and have the thorough documentation that would hold up to scientific standards, then one day we may have a piece of evidence that would be taken seriously by the scientific community,” Knapp said.
And if the MIT software doesn’t come in handy, Knapp can always tap into other Bigfoot resources offered here in the Bay State. Lest you forget, two of Boston’s favorite athletes—Dustin Pedroia and Jonathan Papelbon, of Red Sox fame—are avid Sasquatch hunters with an interest in finding the beast when they aren’t trying to knock balls out of Fenway Park.