Wonderful Engineering

This Amazing Optical Illusion Makes Flat Objects Look 3D

This is a picture of a pile of coins sitting on a 3D cube. Were you thinking the same? Well, it is not. Everything on this table is not what you think you are seeing and this is a simple ‘anamorphic’ illusion. This mind twisting illusion shows a flat object that looks distorted from most angles but aligns to form a perfect cube shape when viewed from one position.

Sage Hansen, created a video from his home in Texas on 10 December. Hansen is a 3D animator, he said, “I created a virtual cube and camera angle in my 3D software. I then started to draw lines at random positions and angles until they aligned in the camera’s perspective. I then extruded the lines to make them thicker and rounded off the corners to soften the lighting. I then printed the object on my 3D printer.”

The boxes only appear real when filmed at a certain angle. The moment you move, the image becomes distorted and the viewer can see it is an illusion.

The 3D designing took Hansen around two and a half hours per cube. “I have always enjoyed seeing forced perspective chalk art,” he said. “I got my first 3D printer in 2014. The printers have come a long way in a short time and they have made many improvements so I got my current 3D printer in 2016. This idea for the illusion cubes came to me in the middle of the night and when I woke up and started to search online and didn’t see this. I knew it would be a fun challenge for me to create.”

The system of perspective is a relatively recent discovery in art history. Before the 14th century, little to no attempts were made to realistically depict the three-dimensional world in the art in the way in which we are now accustomed to seeing it.

The prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux may be the first examples of anamorphosis because the oblique angles of the cave would otherwise result in distorted figures from a viewer’s perspective. However, Leonardo da Vinci was the earliest known modern artist to use anamorphosis in 1485.

Possibly the most famous of this mechanism is Hans Holbein the Younger’s painting. The Ambassadors. When viewed face-on, the painting features a distorted shape lying diagonally across the bottom of the frame. However, viewing the painting from an acute angle transforms it into the image of a skull.