The Best Visual illusion of the Year Contest is a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier visual illusion research
community. Contestants from all around the world submitted novel visual illusions (unpublished, or published no earlier than 2009), and an
international panel of judges rated them and narrowed them to the TOP TEN. At the Contest Gala in the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts, the top
ten illusionists presented their creations and the attendees of the event voted to pick the TOP THREE WINNERS!
Here are the first prize for each year from 2005 to 2011:
1- 2011 First prize
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. Take a look.
2- 2010 First prize
In this video, wooden balls roll up the slopes just as if they are pulled by a magnet. The behavior of the balls seems impossible, because
it is against the gravity. The video is not a computer graphic, but a real scene. What is actually happening is that the orientations of the slopes
are perceived oppositely, and hence the descending motion is misinterpreted as ascending motion. This illusion is remarkable in that it is generated
by a three-dimensional solid object and physical motion, instead of a two-dimensional picture.
3- 2009 First prize
"The Break of the curveball", see the flash animation and explanations
4- 2008 First prize
Fixate your gaze on the center of one of the figures and stare at it for some time (20-30 seconds) while it cycles (without moving your eyes). After
several iterations you’ll start noticing that the empty outlines fill in with ghostly redish or bluish colors! These illusory colors are called
“afterimages”. Interestingly, the colors of the afterimages vary, which is puzzling because they come from the same original figure. Moreover, the
shape of the outlines determines the filled-in color, which is complementary to the color of the same shape in the original figure.
It is well known that viewing a colored surface can induce a vivid afterimage of the complementary color (for example, the color red induces a
greenish/bluish afterimage). Our illusion shows that a colored image can produce different colored afterimages at the same retinal location. The
perceived afterimage colors depend on the contours that are presented after the colored image. More specifically, the illusion shows that the
afterimage colors spread and mix between those contours. In addition, alternating different contours after the original colored image causes rapidly
switching afterimage colors.
5- 2007 First prize
Here is a novel illusion that is as striking as it is simple. The two images of the Leaning Tower of Pisa are identical, yet one has the
impression that the tower on the right leans more, as if photographed from a different angle. The reason for this is because the visual system treats
the two images as if part of a singlescene. Normally, if two adjacent towers rise at the same angle, their image outlines converge as they recede from
view due to perspective, and this is taken into account by the visual system. So when confronted with two towers whose corresponding outlines are
parallel, the visual system assumes they must be diverging as they rise from view, and this is what we see. The illusion is not restricted to towers
photographed from below, but works well with other scenes, such as railway tracks receding into the distance. What this illusion reveals is less to do
with perspective, but how the visual system tends to treat two side-by-side images as if part of the same scene. However hard we try to think of the
two photographs of the Leaning Tower as separate, albeit identical images of the same object, our visual system regards them as the ‘Twin Towers of
Pisa’, whose perspective can only be interpreted in terms of one tower leaning more than the other.
Leaning tower illusion Frederick A. A. Kingdom, Ali Yoonessi, Elena Gheorghiu Scholarpedia 2007. 2(12):5392.
6- 2006 First prize
An object (e.g. airplane) is turning on a surround (greenhouse), which is swaying back and forth. Observe the rotation of the object. Is it
turning smoothly all the time? Or does it “freeze” from time to time? Convince yourself by covering the swaying surround that the object is really
turning continuously. If the object is swaying back and forth and the surround is turning continuously we do not perceive a slow-down of the surround.
Assuming a stable surround, our visual system probably uses the surround as a reference to measure motion of the included objects.
7- 2005 First prize
"Motion-Illusion building blocks", see the flash animation and explanations here
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