The AuraCamera 6000 System

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I love this quote by Arthur C. Clarke and it is especially fitting for this blog post.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -Arthur C. Clarke"

This post has been a long time coming. I first came across the AuraCamera 6000 System at the Tampa Body Mind Spirit Expo in 2017. Its construction looks like something made for the military industrial complex:  machined aluminum parts, big and boxy. The Internet tells me it was hand built and invented by Guy Coggins back in the 1970s. Clearly visible is the back of a Polaroid EE100 Special Land Camera which is the camera part of the AuraCamera 6000 System. I recognized it because I own the very same Polaroid camera. The subject of the aura photograph sits on a folding chair and places each of their hands on hand shaped metallic sensors. Their photograph is taken and the colors which appear around their head in the photograph are purported by the photographer to be the subject's aura and have great meaning.

Knowing that auras are pseudoscientific in nature, and therefore not actually a real thing, I got curious about the inner workings of the AuraCamera 6000 System, what methods it used to flood the portraits with colored light and how much money did this setup cost. I've seen Polaroid EE100 Special cameras sell for as little as $10 on Ebay and I started to wonder what kind of Hackaday.io project could be launched to crowdsource a DIY version of the AuraCamera 6000 System. But I digress...

The website that has the AuraPhoto 6000 System for sale doesn't have a lot of technical information on how the camera photographs a person's aura, but I think their initial disclaimer is pretty clear: "This page is written according to people’s belief in metaphysics." Read: The rest of what you read here will assume you believe in auras and pseudoscience. The technical information they do include is limited to this:

"...measures readings from a hands sensor and exposes those readings as an aura representation to film instant film photograph."

"Our aura reading machine uses a hand sensor, as seen to 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 physiological parameters. The hand sensor itself has various contact points on them designed to maximize reading accuracy. The hand sensor is also sensitive to deviations in temperature, humidity, and static electricity in the environment and the person..." 
"These data parameters are then projected as a radiant, colored aura field around the body" 
"In short, these kinds of technology can measure physical readings from a person’s hand. The aura camera or video device can then display this information as a colorful field around your body. The colors represent our interpretation of your spiritual and auric state."
AuraCamera 6000 System

In short, the temperature, moisture level or static electricity level of the subjects hands, or the room are the measurements used to generate a given color or colors which are then electronically fed to the camera by the camera control board. It is my assumption that a series of LED lights generate the colors that show up on the person's portrait, but I cannot say for certain, as I haven't disassembled an AuraPhoto 6000 System Camera. What I can say is that there is nothing supernatural about a camera that uses skin capacitance as input data to generate a colored output on Fuji Type 100c instant film. Fun fact: capacitive sensing is what makes all of our smart phones, tablets and touch screens detect our finger as a source of input.

I emailed AuraPhoto to inquire about the cost of an AuraPhoto 6000 System. They replied back with this screen capture which shows the list price of the Aura Camera as $15,698. I was told via email that the hand sensors measure "bio feedback items are heartbeat, temperature, measuring the galvanic skin response in the electoral dermal layer. Other proprietary measurements are used that are not shared." (There is no such thing as an 'electoral' dermal layer. Human skin has three layers: epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous).


Setting aside the fact that auras (colors emanating from/surrounding human beings) don't exist and as a result, can't be photographed let's focus on the cost of this camera, the film (it's not cheap) and how long it would take to turn a profit if one were to "invest" in this popular trickery. Handily, AuraPhoto has an Aura Camera Profitability Guide where the cost of each picture is set at $25. They list the cost of piece of film in the film pack as $1.30 which is basically a quarter of what the film costs nowadays.

Fuji is no longer making the FP-100C color peel-apart instant film as of 2016, and stock is limited where you can find it, and prices are climbing. The average cost of film is $48 for a pack of 10 exposures. Each photo costs $4.80 in film alone. The only way to get fresh Type 100C film is to have backed the One Instant Kickstarter which is pricing a 6 pack of film at a staggering $62.55 per pack (that's $10.42 per photo for those keeping track at home). Heaven knows how much it will cost when the product is launched outside of Kickstarter (if that ever happens).

Let's look at the Return On Investment (ROI) calculations on the AuraCamera 6000, using outdated Fuji Type100C film, just for giggles. AuraPhoto's profitability guide looks pretty good until you start factoring in the cost of the camera, expo booth rental and electricity fees, not to mention airfare, hotel and other travel costs. Let's leave out the travel costs and focus on the booth, electricity, camera and film costs to keep it simple.

You'd need to take/sell 450 photographs priced at $35 each, not including the cost of the film ($4.80 a photograph) to pay for the camera. To achieve a break even cost on the camera, one would have to purchase $2,152 in film. That's another 61 aura portraits to pay for the film. Now let's take into consideration the cost of the booth at the Expo fair.

  • Booth Rental $650.00
  • Electricity hookup for booth (directional lighting needed on photo subjects) $100
  • $35 per photo
  • Pictures need to take = 19
  • Cost of film to take 19 pictures = $89

The AuraCamera 6000 System won't turn a profit until the photographer passes the ~500 photo mark, and even then, the cost of traveling to the expo(s) and repeated booth rental costs keep moving the needle on profitability of the camera system. The only place I can think of where having an AuraCamera 6000 System could pay for itself fairly quickly would be the lobby of the Cassadega Hotel. Captive audience, high probability of target demographic foot traffic (believers in paranormal/pseudoscience).

I'm not the first person to write about what a sham the AuraCamera 6000 is. In the manufacturer's own words, the camera doesn't actually photograph a person's aura (which isn't even possible because it doesn't exist). I'm choosing instead to address the steep cost of the unit and the uphill battle to achieve a return on one's investment, given that the camera costs nearly $16K and film is starting to cost $5 a print (if you can find deadstock Fuji Type 100C) and may soon cost $10 per photo for One Instant film.

Does this mean that the next time you have an aura portrait taken, the cost will increase to $45 or $50 (to keep the photographer in the black)? Will anyone pay that price? Could we soon find AuraCamera 6000 Systems turning up on eBay? My guess is yes, because we've seen projects like this pop up in recent years. Another question I keep asking myself is - does the photographer believe they're actually photographing a person's aura, or are they telling themselves that they're taking part in a harmless, capatalistic business venture?

If you're still hungry for more scientific studies into auras, many people have already written about that here, here and here.