Dual Axis Illusion

2019 First prize
Frank Force. “Dual Axis Illusion”. USA

This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around both the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time! To make things even more confusing, the direction of rotation is also ambiguous. Some visual cues in the video will help viewers change their perception.

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Rating: 8.1/10 (307 votes cast)
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Change the Color

2019 Second prize
Haruaki Fukuda. “Change the Color”. University of Tokyo. Japan

In this illusion, either downward or rightward motion perception for the dots is possible. Depending on the perceived motion direction, color changes: red and green dots with downward motion, and yellow dots with rightward motion. This suggests that our perception of color is not simply the result of limitations in temporal resolution of the visual system.

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Rating: 6.1/10 (196 votes cast)
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The Rotating Circles Illusion

2019 Third prize
Ryan E.B. Mruczek and Gideon Paul Caplovitz. “The Rotating Circles Illusion”. College of the Holy Cross and University of Nevada Reno. USA

In the Rotating Circles illusion, the true motion of the central circle is unchanging – it simply rotates around a central point. However, the added motion of surrounding circles leads the perceived motion of the central circle to appear “pulled” and distorted. Even though it is continuously rotating, by fixating the white dot the central circle can appear to move up and down, left and right, even in a triangle. As with other dynamic illusions, the effect is strongest when viewed in the periphery. Viewers can confirm that the central circle is always rotating simply by looking right at it.

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Rating: 5.2/10 (149 votes cast)
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Bodiject Fingers

Kenri Kodaka: “Bodiject Fingers”. Naoya City University. Japan

Illusion description: Can you feel your fingers are objects, just like a pen or vegetable stick? This kind of thought experiment enables us to become aware of the fundamental difficulty of detaching ownership from our body voluntarily. “Bodiject Fingers” challenges such a cognitive barrier. This illusion is easily experienced by allowing a portion of the fingers to pass through an opening under the slightly raised mirror. Seeing and operating the symmetrically-deformed fingers in this specific layout inspires a weird feeling where the fingers are transformed into a strange objects or creatures.

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Rating: 6.2/10 (88 votes cast)
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Facing-Right Illusion

Kokichi Sugihara. “Facing-Right Illusion”. Meiji University. Japan

The object appears to be a bird facing right. Even though we rotate it around a vertical axis by 180 degrees, we cannot make it to face left; it turns to the right again. The object is made of hard material, but it appears as if it is deforming continuously during rotation. Mathematically a line-symmetric structure in a 3D space is invariant to 180-degree rotation around the line of symmetry. The object is designed using this mathematical property together with the human preference of a familiar silhouette to an actual 3D shape.

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Rating: 5.4/10 (89 votes cast)
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Helix Rotation

Arthur G. Shapiro: “Helix Rotation”. American University. USA

The display consists of two columns of dots that move back and forth horizontally. What to do: Put a dark filter over one eye, and keep both eyes open. What to notice: 1. The dots look like a three-dimensional helix. 2. When the dark filter is over the left eye, the helix rotates clockwise; when the filter is over the right eye, the helix rotates counterclockwise. 3. When the viewer uses no filter but blurs the image by squinting both eyes or by using a defocusing lens, motion is upwards for one helix and downwards for the other.

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Rating: 5.5/10 (53 votes cast)
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3D Graffiti

Jack Bowers. “3D Graffiti”. USA

The Necker Cube, published by Louis Necker in 1932, ushered in an almost 200-year investigation into visual illusion. This video continues that exploration today in-light-of what we now know about the fact that matter equals energy. The quantum physics revolution has altered our world in ways beyond compare. What we see in our day to day experience is quite different from what science has confirmed. This video asserts that we must question our assumptions about perspective. The Renaissance helped us understand how we see 3-D distance visually, and today’s science confirms that there is more to the story.

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Rating: 7.1/10 (76 votes cast)
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Magic Tic-Tac-Toe

Gianni A. Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber: “Magic Tic-Tac-Toe”. Sarcone’s Studio. Italy and Switzerland

Our visual system can interpret colors and shades in surprising ways. With this 3×3 grid we show that our sensibility to color brightness can be easily fooled. The visual mechanism in our eye that enhances the contrast of the outline of an object relative to its background is called “lateral inhibition”. Thus, even small differences in brightness between adjacent color zones are magnified by our visual system and the brain to better distinguish them. But something strange happens when the brightness boundaries of those color zones are concealed: the cues the brain needs to trigger lateral inhibition no longer exist and consequently we become blind to variations in color brightness.

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Rating: 8.4/10 (186 votes cast)
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The Chunder Thunder Illusion

Mike Pickard and Gurpreet Singh. “The Chunder Thunder Illusion”. The University of Sunderland. United Kingdom

In this illusion, the 17th Dutch marine artist Ludolf Bakhuizen’s painting “Ships on a Stormy Sea” is seemingly bought to life. The ship appears to be tossed around on a raging sea in a wild storm where the waves surge past and the clouds scud across the sky. With the hatches battened down, the crew are experiencing a roller coaster ride! However, this impression of wild motion is illusory.

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Rating: 7.2/10 (83 votes cast)
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Ambiguous Cardboard Arrows

Matt Pritchard. “Ambiguous Cardboard Arrows”. United Kingdom

The cut-up cardboard tube is a super simple design for creating an ambiguous object that can quickly and easily be constructed as a science craft project. Viewed from one angle it looks like an arrow pointing to the left. However, a rear view (or from a reflection in a mirror) has the arrow pointing in the opposite direction. When multiple objects are placed on the edge of a spinning turntable the observer can see the arrow magically morph from one state to the other. A variation has both the direction and colour of the arrow flip in a mirror.

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Rating: 6.0/10 (66 votes cast)
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