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How Magic Eye Pictures Work

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We've all seen those funny pictures at the mall or on the web - those ones that look like a cross between a bad 80s outfit and a fuzzy TV screen. They're the ones that show you a 3-D picture when cross- your eyes, blur your while they look at them. What's the deal?

Magic Eye - Seeing the Surface Squiggles

When you glance at a Magic Eye (or a stereogram, technically speaking) it looks like a fuzzy abstract picture. However, if you view it stereoscopically (meaning your eyes focused behind the actual picture), a three-dimensional image forms. That's because your subconscious decodes differences in the repeating pattern of the fuzzy lines. When your eyes focus normally, the line of vision from each eye meets in the same place on the page. Your brain then works out how far away the picture is from by comparing the different views from each eye.

Magic Eye -

Seeing the Illusion When you force yourself to focus behind the image, you force your eyes to each look at different squiggles instead of the same one. Because the squiggles are identical your brain doesn't register that each eye is looking at a different one but instead perceives a non-existent (fake) depth to the picture. Your brain solves discrepancies between what each eye sees by allowing for some points of the pattern to seem nearer to you than others are. To sum it up: your brain is constantly trying to make sense of the things you experience - so in this case it allows your brain to disregard the squiggley lines themselves and concentrate on the image behind them. Your brain sees the image in 3-D because your brain thinks your eyes are looking at the same thing when they're actually looking at identical squiggles in slightly different places.

Viewing a Magic Eye

Now the question remains, how do you actually see the hidden image? Here are a few tips:

  • Relax your gaze on the pattern and allow your eyes to drift out of focus.
  • Give the image time to form and then try to look around it without snapping back into normal focus.
  • It might be easier to trick your eyes by bringing the picture to your nose and easing it away without refocusing your eyes. Good luck!

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