"I wasn't talking to you, Deeds. I was talking to that squirrel over there." [points at a goat]
As a visual artist, I think that finding things that have the ability to trick my trained artist eyes are absolutely fascinating. I mean, after being put through foundation year here at Otis, where my eyes were tuned into finding even the smallest shift in color differences, you would think one would become good enough to be able to beat an illusion. This is still not the case. Our brains have this amazing quality about them: they like to fill gaps from what we already know what should be. But, what happens when our own past visual experiences start to work against us? That's exactly how optical illusions work. 

Each year, the Neural Correlate Society holds a contest to find the best optical illusions of that year. The society is a nonprofit organization that promotes scientific research into the neural correlates of perception and cognition. They serve a community of perception scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists and artists who use a variety of methods to help discover the underpinnings of illusory perception. The Neural Correlate Society calls their annual contest “a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier illusion research community.” Contestants from all around the world submitted novel illusions (unpublished, or published no earlier than 2014), and an international panel of judges rated them and narrowed them to the top ten. 

Ten: “Ambiguous Garage Roof” 
Kokichi Sugihara from Meiji University in Japan, submitted this illusion. The roof appears to be either round or corrugated when it is rotated in front of a mirror. The shape of the roof is not round nor corrugated; it is actually a unique ambiguous shape. This illusion was created by combining two facts about perception. First, is the observation that an image does not convey depth information. The other is the fact that the human brain does whatever it can to fill in the empty spaces. Thus, we automatically interpret the two center edges of the roof as a corrugated or a round intersection.

 Nine: “The Day it rained on Lowry”
Michael Pickard from VisuallyDirectedDesign.com in the UK submitted this video of Lowry’s painting, Returning from Work, that he has edited to make the figures appear as though they are walking forward. He does this by using the minds’ bias that wants to make the figures walk forward.In reality, the figures are moving forward and backwards, but our brains chose to extrapolate the movement forward. 

Eight: “The Star Wars Scroll Illusion” 
Arthur Shapiro from American University created this trick of the eye by placing two scrolling credits next to each other. Because the texts are identical, our eyes want the lines to appear to separate from each other. Unfortunately, we see this as each scroll going up and away to the corners. Our brain’s interpretation of the 3D perspective therefore differs from our brain’s interpretation of the parallel lines on the screen and in fact, both scrolls are moving at the same angle to each other.

Seven: “The third hand illusion”
Luke Bashford and Carsten Mehring of Bernstein Center Freiburg, University of Freiburg in Germany conducted this illusory experiment where the subject sits in front of a projection of a hand and using a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI), a device that can translate human brain activity into movements of a prosthetic hand, they then start controlling the virtual reality hand as their own and the brain begins to adopt this new limb.

Six: “The Honeycomb Illusion”
Marco Bertamini and Nicola Bruno from the University of Liverpool, created this image of a honeycomb grid and barbs protruding from each angle. The trick is that your eye only sees the barbs within millimeters of your focal point. Look to another spot and they are only visible around there. The barbs appear to disappear in all other surrounding image area aside from the spot where you are looking.

Five: “Disambiguating #theDress”

Of course, the infamous illusion dress. Is is blue and black or white and gold? Rosa Lafer-Sousa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, added less ambiguous clues from the original photos to give our brains an easier time inferring the spectral-content of ambient light. Rosa did this by embedding #TheDress in scenes containing clear cues to the illuminating conditions: the scene and model’s skin cue either a warm or cool light. This gives major context clues to our brains for different color perceptions.

Four: “The Wandering Circles”
Christopher Blair, Lars Strother, and Gideon Caplovitz of the University of Nevada, Reno created this seemingly moving image. Flickering circles with a light and dark side at their edge appear to move and drift when not focusing directly at a single one. Place a straight line next to it and it will still appear to drift, without ever crossing the line.

Three: “Snow Blind Illusion”

The creator of this image, Masashi Atarashi, is a physics teacher at Aichi Prefectural Gojo Senior High School in Japan. This illusion works by lowering blinds on a snowfall. As this is done, the flakes appear to be falling faster due to the multiple uncontinued lines our brain cannot put together to judge speed. When the blinds are raised, our brains are able to connect the flakes falling path and can properly determine the speed of the snow.

Two: “Mind-Controlled Motion”

When looking at this illusion, your brain can alter what you see just by changing the thought. Both, the up and down, and left and right, slides are all identical, but this illusion gives and interesting though that our brains can active control our perception. When trying this illusion first think “right left right left,” then think “up down up down.” The sequence of images will move whichever way you want it to.

One: “Splitting Colors”

The winner of the contest, Mark Vergeer of KU Leuven from Belgium created this color illusion. This illusion is all about how we perceive colors, We start off with two identical, flickering colored stripes that remain unchanged throughout the demonstration. However, different surroundings will make these stripes appear completely different. When the stripe is flanked by a yellow/blue pattern, drifting to the left, it changes appearance, and looks red and cyan, drifting to the right, while the same stripe, flanked by a red/cyan pattern drifting to the right, suddenly looks yellow and blue, drifting to the left. This illusion shows that one and the same object can look completely different depending on its surroundings.

Interested in learning more about the Neural Correlate Society or seeing previous years’ annual illusion contest?
                             Click here to be directed to their website or visit http://illusionoftheyear.com/


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