Since 2005, The Best Illusion of the Year contest has been quietly blowing minds in the illusion community. Yes, there is an illusion community, made up of visual scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, and artists. Optical illusions call to such professions because they aren’t just a fun way to short-circuit your perception—optical illusions are windows into the way perception works. When something doesn’t look quite right or confuses us, that is evidence that the brain is working in a specific way.
This year’s winners are just as interesting. First place went to Mathew T. Harrison and Gideon P. Caplovitz from the University of Nevada at Reno. It uses Gabor elements—very simply, tiny balls with moving black bars that simulate visual processing in a certain way—to create the illusion of movement. The elements aren’t moving below, only the black bars within them are, and at different rates:
The second place winner has already gone viral on Reddit, and comes from Kokichi Sugihara from Meiji University in Japan. It’s called the “ambiguous cylinder illusion,” and it uses a shape that melds a square and a circle to make the mirror defy your expectations of reflection:
Finally, third place went to Christine Veras at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She produced a silhouette zoetrope that gives the impression of a flapping bird trapped inside a spinning cylinder:
These illusions may not be as immediately viral as The Dress (never forget), but they are fun and useful for the study of human perception nonetheless.
What do you think? Which one blew your mind the most? Let us know in the comments below.
Images: Neural Correlate Society