The Best Illusion of the Year Contest

The Best illusion of the Year Contest announced its winners this past weekend in a ceremony at St. Pete Beach, Florida. The winners are:

1st prize The Dynamic Ebbinghaus
Christopher Blair, Gideon Caplovitz, and Ryan Mruczek
(University of Nevada Reno, USA, USA)

(YouTube link)

The Dynamic Ebbinghaus takes a classic, static size illusion and transforms it into a dynamic, moving display. A central circle, which stays the same size, appears to change size when it is surrounded by a set of circles that grow and shrink over time. Interestingly, this effect is relatively weak when looking directly at a stationary central circle. But if you look away from the central circle or move your eyes, or if the entire stimulus move across the screen, then the illusory effect is surprisingly strong – at least twice as large as the classic, static Ebbinghaus illusion.

2nd prize Flexible Colors
Mark Vergeer, Stuart Anstis, and Rob van Lier
(University of Leuven, UC San Diego, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)

One colored image can lead to several color perceptions, depending on the position of black outlines that are presented on top of the colored image. The shape of a surface depends more on changes of luminance in the visual scene than on specific colors themselves. By presenting black outlines on top of colored images, the whole area between outlines is seen as having one single color. Instead of seeing the actual colors presented at each location, our brain prefers to see one homogenous color, as surfaces in real life are usually also perceived with one single color.

There are actually three .gifs illustrating this illusion at the contest site.

3rd prize A Turn in the Road
Kimberley Orsten and James Pomerantz
(Rice University, Houston, USA)

(YouTube link)

When we look at two pictures that are physically the same, they usually look the same. When they are different, they look different. Our illusions show the opposite: two images that are different but look the same -- those are called "metamers"; -- and two images that are identical but look different -- we call those "anti-metamers." Our main illusion mixes the two: it shows three images, two of which match with a third one mismatching. Viewers see one image as odd, but it's one of the two identical images they see as different, an illusion we call "false pop out."

It’s the third prize winner that still astounds me. You can see the top ten illusions and more entries at the contest site. -via Sploid


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