Third Year Project Idea: Space Illusions in Real Space

Johannes M. Zanker,

This idea is meant to be a fun project that combines practical aspects with gaining new insights into understanding how visual illusions trick the human brain. Under normal experimental conditions, modern psychophysics tends to investigate visual illusions under controlled conditions as provided by presentations of flat images on computer screens. The disadvantage of this method is that the ‘experience’ of space in such conditions is purely virtual, which restricts the conclusions we can draw from any effect found. Could it be that similar stimuli, when set in a proper three-dimensional environment, elicit different perceptual effects? We could, for instance, cover one of the boring grey walls in our department with some nice illusory pattern (for instance a pattern similar to Bridget Riley’s ‘Movement in Squares’, 1961) and test the perceived shape, location and orientation of simple geometric objects on such a surface. There are (almost) no limits for being creative with this project…

background reading: Gregory, R.L.1994 “Eye and Brain” London: Oxford University Press. (152.14 GRE)

one possible way to follow this line of thought, and at the same time to enrich our departmental environment, is to cover a wall (for instance in the stairwell) with a texture that creates a strong depth illusion: a reclining surface that extends int o the wall - and then test the perceived shape and orientation in space of simple objects, such as a painted or wooden wireframe...

another possibility is to use the spatial projection geometry of a viewer to generate a 'floating pattern' that can be only seen from one particular viewpoint in (real) space:

this example, amongst others, can be found at:

last update 21-Feb-2006
Johannes M. Zanker