Use Your Illusion and Have Fun!

No, I am not talking about glam rock band Guns ‘n Roses (does anyone still talk about them today?). The winners of the 2011 Best Illusion of the Year Contest have just been announced, and boy, do you have a lot of material to waste your time on!

This contest is held yearly, this year being the 7th installment. The purpose of the contest? ((Illusion of the Year))

The contest is a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier visual illusion research community. Visual illusions are those perceptual experiences that do not match the physical reality. Our perception of the outside world is generated indirectly by brain mechanisms, and so all visual perception is illusory to some extent. The study of visual illusions is therefore of critical importance to the understanding of the basic mechanisms of sensory perception, as well as to cure many diseases of the visual system. The visual illusion community includes visual scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, and visual artists that use a variety of methods to help discover the neural underpinnings of visual illusory perception.

The average person may just have some fun with these illusions, but they do have real value for researchers. While we may have some readers who can find that value, you don’t have to be a researcher to enjoy looking at these illusions.

The first prize went to “Silencing Illusion”, which illustrates how motion can silence visual change. Here are the instructions:

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Play the movie while looking at the small white speck in the center of the ring. At first, the ring is motionless and it’s easy to tell that the dots are changing color. When the ring begins to rotate, the dots suddenly appear to stop changing. But in reality they are changing the entire time.

Were you able to detect the continuous change of the colors even though the ring was moving? I tried for a while, but it was hopeless!

The second prize went to Grouping by Contrast, while the third prize went to The Loch Ness Aftereffect. Both are displayed using Flash, so please visit the contest’s official web site to view. ((Illusion of the Year Winners))

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