Can your mind bend the yellow dots to do your will?
October 12, 2020 10:48 PM   Subscribe

This year's finalists have not yet been announced, so it's not too late for a post about the winners of the 2019 Best Illusion of the Year contest. First Prize: the Dual Axis Illusion; Second Prize: Change the Color; Third Prize: The Rotating Circles; and my favorite of the honorable mentions: 3D Graffiti. (MetaFilter posts about previous years: 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2009)
posted by straight (53 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Change the Color" is the one that most makes me feel betrayed by my eyes and brain. I have to try so hard to see the red/green falling dots and when I do they seem so completely obvious. But then my attention wavers and it's like I dropped them. They're gone, the yellow dots are back, and I can't see where the red and green ones went. They were right there!
posted by straight at 10:52 PM on October 12 [12 favorites]


Prize given by the Neural Correlate Society who I suspect occupy the top three floors of an emerald green skyscraper in Hanoi, an airship tethered to it's spire, it's sides showing hostile animated memes.
I feel a strong urge to jack into cyberspace and hack them.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 11:44 PM on October 12 [12 favorites]


Ha, I have to try hard to see the left to right motion to get the yellow dots. Fascinating! I just wish they had a five minute loop video without the text interruptions.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:50 PM on October 12 [9 favorites]


The yellow dots were tricky for me to see at first, until I focused on just the bottom of the frame, at which point suddenly HOLY MOLY SO YELLOW

I agree with straight that there is absolutely a feeling of betrayal involved
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:13 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Yeah it's a frustratingly short video. I always see red green at first then switch to yellow, but the video never gave me a chance to switch back without constant rewinds which broke things. Focussing on the borders of the screen definitely makes it a lot easier to switch though.
posted by edd at 1:17 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


With the colors I had to physically cover most of the video to see the red green, otherwise I'd just see yellow. The videos length is super short for me, it took like three tries to be able to see anything but yellow. Though in general I'm pretty bad at picking up illusions.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:51 AM on October 13


I seem to have a slightly non-standard reaction to Change the color. My default is lines moving down, static red and green dots.

With a little effort (look at the bottom of the screen, maybe squint a little) dots have a fast jitter and are yellow, the lines are moving left to right.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:53 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]


For the winner my reaction was "you've got to be kidding me, just a lissajous pattern? Haven't we all hooked the X and Y axes of our oscilloscopes up to different frequency signal generators?"

The red green dots one was something though! I did not see the yellow dots and didn't know how it was possible to see them until suddenly WHAT?
posted by aubilenon at 2:10 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]


The Rotating Circles does nothing for me, but the voiceover’s hints are vague enough that I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be doing for me.
posted by jon1270 at 2:50 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]


The Rotating Circles does nothing for me, but the voiceover’s hints are vague enough that I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be doing for me.

The small circle in the center is in a tight circular orbit around a fixed point, but depending on the movement of the larger circles, it looks like it's flying all over the place.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:14 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


The red+green makes yellow feels like a cop-out. If I watch it, it’s always red and green. If I unfocus my eyes or move the screen further from my face, yellow.

It’s only novel to someone who’s young enough that they never got too close to a CRT television.
posted by explosion at 5:22 AM on October 13 [6 favorites]


So I guess I'm the only one that always sees them as yellow dots?

(Although I did have flashes of seeing them as yellow dots with sort of red and green halos.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:25 AM on October 13


Thanks, but.. not so much, really. It just looks like the little circle is bobbing around in roughly the same place, with the big circles making big movements around it.
posted by jon1270 at 5:27 AM on October 13 [5 favorites]


Help! I'm being held prisoner in a laughably inaccurate virtual reality by my stupid body!
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:32 AM on October 13 [7 favorites]


The 3-d one is my favorite, by a large margin.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:08 AM on October 13 [3 favorites]


So I guess I'm the only one that always sees them as yellow dots?

No, me as well. I see red and green dots briefly as I look away.
posted by popcassady at 6:20 AM on October 13


Unfortunately, the 3-d graffiti doesn't work if you have two eyes. If you were standing there, looking at it, it would obviously be a bunch of pipes sticking off of a wall. You need to film it with a camera to make it look like a floating cube.
posted by Hatashran at 6:42 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


The red+green makes yellow feels like a cop-out. If I watch it, it’s always red and green. If I unfocus my eyes or move the screen further from my face, yellow.

I thought that for a minute but resizing the window had zero effect on my propensity to see the red/green, AND I can see the yellow very sharply once I switch over to it. I think that my brain is effectively blurring time to do it, which is different from defocusing my eyes, and is weird.
posted by aubilenon at 8:20 AM on October 13


Bodiject Fingers gave me full on physical shivers!

There is no yellow, you guys are just messing with us of limited yellow sensory abilities.
posted by sammyo at 8:52 AM on October 13


I see red and green unless I squint, then I see yellow. I tried to follow the instructions in the video about imagining the dots moving in different directions - that made no difference at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:53 AM on October 13


Longer, uninterrupted red/green/yellow illusion here: glitch

Keep in mind that the effect depends on your eyes actually tracking horizontally or vertically.
posted by mpark at 8:56 AM on October 13 [10 favorites]


The wild animations and rotations and color switching are great, but I love the ambiguous cardbard arrows for its simplicity. Maybe gimmicky when toe-to-toe with the top 3, but accessible in a way the fancy computer animations aren't. Grab a cardboard tube, scissors, and a mirror -- I'm definitely gonna test that one out with the youngster later!
posted by Theophrastus Johnson at 9:14 AM on October 13 [4 favorites]


Reality is constructed inside your head. Your results depend on the quality of the construction crew putting things together. Mine ran out of yellow, so I never saw the yellow dots. Maybe I need to hire a new general contractor?
posted by njohnson23 at 9:14 AM on October 13


The red green/yellow sideways one if I blink rapidly I can see sideways motion but red and green dots.
posted by Pembquist at 9:15 AM on October 13


If you want to see some impressive graffiti optical illusions, check out Odeith's instagram account. I am happy and envious that someone is doing artwork like this.
posted by Termite at 9:28 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Most reliable way I've found to switch between yellow and red-green: To get yellow, let your eyes follow a single dot across the top edge of the video from left to right. To get red-green, let your eyes follow a single dot down the right edge of the video.

If I follow a dot across to the top right corner then immediately down the right side, the colours instantly flip at the corner.
posted by clawsoon at 9:30 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


I love these, as I do every year.

There is nothing like the deep frustration of seeing the illusion and trying to get your partner/coworker/anyone really to make the lines change, the dancer spin the other way, etc. Unless it's not seeing the thing and having someone hector you about it.

you're just not
looking at it right

you have to relax
your eyes, look

but don't look

you'll see her
as i see her

spinning backwards
then forwards again

now i've lost it
posted by Caxton1476 at 9:32 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


I get a distinct feeling of playing Pac-Man when I follow the dots across the top and then down the right side.
posted by clawsoon at 9:33 AM on October 13


Okay on more experimentation if I'm freely tracking motion, they're red and green, but if I'm not (which is hard for me to do) they're yellow - the easiest way to do this is to keep my eyes on the bottom of the animation (where they can't track vertically). This does feel like seeing a stereogram to me though the physical ("defocusing") mechanism is totally different, but it does involve a very similar suppression of an automatic visual response (matching eye angle to focal depth, tracking moving objects).
posted by aubilenon at 9:40 AM on October 13


Update: If I'm foveating on something else (e.g., a comment box) and just seeing the animation in my periphery, of course it is yellow, because I'm not tracking the motion.
posted by aubilenon at 9:46 AM on October 13


Longer, uninterrupted red/green/yellow illusion here: glitch

Oh, this was better, I couldn't make myself see the red/green dots at ALL with the original link. Thank you!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


The red and green dots are the same color to me, being color blind, but the illusion still works.
posted by mdoar at 10:38 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


I love the idiosyncratic music choices in these videos. I mean, I don't know what the right soundtrack for an optical illusion is -- and I guess no one else does either.
posted by treepour at 10:41 AM on October 13 [3 favorites]


@mdoar Wait, what? Do you mean you can see yellow?
posted by mpark at 10:55 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


I hear 2020 candidates for best illusion include "representative democracy", "free and fair elections", and the very concept of time itself illustrated by a 30 minute zoom conference call taken from a work from home office, that to the viewer appears to be about 6 months long.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:11 PM on October 13 [3 favorites]


I really don't get the 3D Graffiti one, they don't explain it, and ... I'm not sure what it's actually doing vs what it seems to be doing or what the point is? Is this in 3d space is it actually painted? Comment above makes it sound like this is actual 3d architecture, but...

Also - I can't see yellow, just green/red.
posted by symbioid at 12:12 PM on October 13


For me the optical graffiti one switched sneakily from an impossible shape to a normal one and back as the viewpoint changed. Pretty neat!
posted by sjswitzer at 12:18 PM on October 13


The 3D Graffiti one seems to be an actual 3d object (unless I'm *really* missing something) - about at the 55 second mark you can clearly see the 3D against the different colored wall to the right. To me it looks like 2D art that shape shifts around the wall until they expose that it's really 3D. I liked it because it was in a very real environment and something you can imagine being installed.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 12:20 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Longer, uninterrupted red/green/yellow illusion here: glitch

Maybe it's the different speed? But I can switch back and forth easily on this one.

I made a crude one-minute loop from the original Change the Color video and I can switch to the red/green version if I use the edge of the screen, but if I just look at the middle, I absolutely cannot force my eyes to switch from tracking yellow side-to-side to tracking red and green falling down. It feels really weird and frustrating that I can't do it.
posted by straight at 12:49 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Help! I'm being held prisoner in a laughably inaccurate virtual reality by my stupid body!

Hey now, the mark-1 eyeball/brain is still the most accurate visual processing system on this planet. Most of it's glitches happen because avoiding false negatives takes priority over avoiding false positives for a medium sized mammal that lives near the high grass. As for false positives like these illusions, you've got that great big brain (our one advantage over the birds) to model weird objects, detect mistakes, and laugh off those times you get fooled.

The computers will catch up soon, just like they did with Go, but for now the world's most reliable seein thing is sitting on your neck.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:51 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


I modified mpark's Glitch somewhat to try to make the blended color more obvious - with a darker green, the red and green dots (now stripes) lose more of their distinctiveness, so you can either see this as falling red and green blocks or as a scrolling orange-and-black striped pattern (either horizontally or diagonally). It's not quite as striking as the original, but if you're having trouble seeing yellow in the first one, you might still be able to see orange here.
posted by wanderingmind at 1:26 PM on October 13


Huh, wanderingmind's pattern produces a curious effect for me. It looks orange-and-black no matter how I look at it, but there's a persistent sort of long-wave-ribbon of red-and-green dots running across the pattern, usually about a third of the way down the image but occasionally jumping or widening. It's very unnerving.
posted by jackbishop at 2:13 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Definitely an alpha version of a langford basilisk.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 2:36 PM on October 13 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, wanderingmind. Having seen it in your version, I can briefly make the other versions move diagonally too. If I squint, I can even get mpark's version to make smoothly-moving sharp (anti-aliased) diagonal lines moving NW to SE.
posted by straight at 2:36 PM on October 13


I like mpark's version because both the red/green dots and the yellow dots seem very solid and smoothly-moving when you're locked on to one of them.
posted by straight at 2:39 PM on October 13


Definitely an alpha version of a langford basilisk.

In the sense that someone's gonna kill me if I don't stop looking at this thing and get some work done.
posted by straight at 2:41 PM on October 13


mparks version looked much nicer of course, but I found it harder to start the horizontal scanning. I wonder if the differences in aspect ratio were the cause - maybe the wider original makes horizontal scanning easier?
posted by piyushnz at 4:05 PM on October 13


I added a moving target to maybe help anyone who still doesn't see the red/green/yellow illusion. Follow the white square as it moves horizontally and the diagonal lines should appear yellow. Follow the white square vertically and the diagonals should be red & green.
Same glitch link
posted by mpark at 6:06 PM on October 13 [7 favorites]


That's brilliant mpark!
posted by piyushnz at 6:50 PM on October 13 [1 favorite]


Awesome, mpark! I think it's also possible to add a dot that moves diagonally top-left to bottom-right at various angles and induce diagonal movement at arbitrary angles.
posted by straight at 7:12 PM on October 13


When I watch a square-cropped version of mpark's version with the white dot on my phone, I get an extremely strong illusion that the first horizontal dot after the vertical ones is moving diagonally up from the left until it gets to the middle of the screen.
posted by straight at 7:17 PM on October 13


I managed to hold the diagonal for a moment by using my hands to change the frame.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 10:26 PM on October 13


Speaking of illusions.
I have not seen this one circulating much outside of VFX geek groups, but this is one of the most interesting have seen for a while.

It really gives you a idea of how much your brain is tricking you into thinking you are visually processing in real time.
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:10 PM on October 15 [1 favorite]


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