Enigma Labs wants to be the Wikipedia of UFO sightings.
The startup launched an invite-only app on Tuesday that will let users report unidentified aerial phenomenon on their phone or through a web portal. The pitch is that the app will make it easier for people to report weird sightings of things in the sky, help sort through obvious bullshit, and organize things on the backend for people researching the topic.
“Traditional methods of managing existing data are highly fragmented and non-standardized, making it difficult to assess the credibility at scale,” a press release announcing the launch of the app said. “Enigma Labs’ AI and deep learning systems unify and standardize data through a rational, scientific approach, within a centralized, independent platform.”
The launch of Enigma Labs comes at a time when public interest in UFOs is at a high not seen in decades. Recent high profile sightings from credible witnesses in the U.S. Navy helped make the issue popular again. Last year, the Pentagon opened an All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office to study the phenomenon. Politico recently reported that the Pentagon was partnering with Enigma Labs.
Mark Douglas, Chief Operating Officer at Enigma Labs, told me he’d never personally seen a UFO. “I see these things all the time, right, on Twitter and YouTube,” he said. “And it’s just very hard to say what any one individual setting may or may not be. And that’s part of the reason we’re building this platform.”
The idea is that a person who sees something strange in the sky will be able to use the Enigma Labs app to report it in a standardized way. When a user opens the app, they’re urged to fill out a series of prompts describing what they’ve seen. It starts with the basics (Where did you see this thing and how long was it in the air?) before asking the witness for video or photos of the object and allowing them to fill out a blank prompt where they can tell the whole story.
The app wraps up by asking some standardized questions that read like a UFO-themed Mad Libs. “I saw (number of objects), they were (sphere? triangle? square?) shaped. At its closest, the UAP was (distance) viewed at arms’ length, it was (coin) sized. It had (hovering? streaking?) movement.”
The app analyzes the photos and videos uploaded to it using machine learning, looking for markers of Photoshop or other forms of manipulation. It asks questions, such as if the witness saw a contrail or if they live near an airport, that might help explain what the person saw. It takes all this data and uses AI to assign a score to the report. The higher the score, the more visible and “credible” the report is for Enigma Labs partners with API access.
In a private demo of the app, Enigma Labs walked me through how it all works. “Once we have all this data digitized, standardized, structured in some way, now you can run queries and play around with the data,” Douglas told me. A globe view of the United States filled the screen. Radiation symbols populated the map as well as small pictures, each picture was a data point. Clicking on the picture brought up the individual report.
“What you’re seeing here, in real time, is one of our engineers typing up a query to look up all the sightings within 100 kilometers of a nuclear facility and then sorting those sightings by score,” Douglas said.
According to Enigma Labs, it has already processed historical UFO data and loaded it into its app. All the reports from Project Blue Book, every reported UFO sighting from the last 100 years, and the recent sightings from Navy and Air Force personnel are all already in the system. According to Enigma Labs, that’s about 300,000 sightings. The goal now is to get people using the app to report new sightings.
App users can play around with the data, but official partners will have a higher level access to the API and can do more things with the data. Who are Enigma Labs partners, exactly? It wouldn’t comment on that, nor would it comment directly on the DOD’s reported usage.
Enigma Labs said one of its big goals is eliminating the stigma around reporting the sighting of a UFO. “The more people report quality sightings, the better we’re able to match those people and have them corroborate and discuss their experience,” Douglas said. “People will be able to relate to each other and form stronger social glue that reduces the stigma and taboo around this topic.”