Hoping to repeat last year's win as the 2014 Best Illusion of the Year, three vision scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno's Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts have created a new optical illusion which has been selected as one of the top 10 finalists for the 11th annual international Illusion of the Year Competition.
The illusion, called The Wandering Circles Illusion, was submitted by University graduate student Christopher Blair, Assistant Professor of Psychology Gideon Caplovitz and Assistant Professor of Psychology Lars Strother. The illusion begins with a static image of four symmetrical circles placed on a screen. The viewer looks at the center of the screen and relaxes their eyes. After a few moments, it appears that the four circles are moving or "wandering" on the screen.
"When it comes to illusions, it is something that everyone can get excited about," Blair said. "People like to be fooled and scratch their heads as they try to figure out why the illusion is like that. I think that it builds our excitement to see people who are not vision scientists getting excited about what we do."
This is the third year that Blair and Caplovitz have worked together to create an illusion that has been selected as one of the Top 10 Best Illusions, and the fifth year that Caplovitz has had an illusion that has been in the top 10. Last year, their Dynamic Ebbinghaus Illusion was voted the 2014 Best Illusion.
"As vision scientists, we are constantly coming up with stimuli for various experiments," Blair said. "We find ourselves noticing small things; things everybody sees but don't necessarily think about. As vision scientist nerds, we look at it and say, 'I bet that is something.'"
The popular vote portion of the competition has changed since last year. This year, the public is invited to vote online during a 24-hour period to determine who will be named the 2015 Best Illusion. Worldwide voting will start at 4 p.m. June 11 and remain open until 4 p.m. June 12.
The Wandering Circles Illusion
Voting for the Best Illusion is
In previous years, the top 10 finalists would present their illusions to a live audience at the international competition held by the Neural Correlate Society. The presenters would have five minutes to present their illusion in an entertaining and unique way. The live audience would vote for the Best Illusion of the Year based on the presentations. Because this year's voting is online, the illusions will be viewed by a much larger and diverse audience.
"What is exciting is that this is going to reach a broader audience," Caplovitz said. "The overall mission of the illusion contest is to communicate science to the general public and to get people excited about the brain and vision sciences. To be part of this next step is very special."
While the illusion they submitted solely focused on circles, the illusion works with many different shapes. Blair has garnered the same effect with triangles, squares and even by putting the circles within squares. The illusion can also be intensified by increasing the number of shapes on the screen. Blair created a one-minute video that highlights the illusion.
"In the video, we show the basic effect for 30 seconds - we wanted to really establish the illusion," he said. "For the next 15 seconds, we show the framing effect, and for the last 15 seconds, we do the full-blown illusion all over the screen."
The public will vote online based on the videos submitted by the top 10 finalists. The illusion with the most votes will be named the Illusion of the Year and will receive $3,000 and a trophy. The second place winner will receive $2,000 and the third place winner will receive $1,000.
The three researchers created The Wandering Circles Illusion in the Caplovitz Vision Lab which is partially funded by the Center for Integrative Neuroscience, a multidisciplinary Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant. Caplovitz is one of five University faculty members who are part of the $10 million grant awarded to the University in 2012 to foster complementary approaches to understanding the brain and neurological disorders.
To vote for the 2015 Best Illusion of the Year, go to http://illusionoftheyear.com/vote/.