Viral Illusions: A Few of Our Favorites

There’s a lot to love about the internet- memes, unlimited access to infinite knowledge, getting to communicate with strangers from across the globe. Our favorite part of the internet? You probably guessed it- the viral illusions that pop up every now and then and stump everyone.

Today, we’re taking a break from science, stepping away from education, and embracing another core value at the Museum of Illusions NYC- fun! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite viral illusions for you to enjoy. Some are oldies but goodies, some are brand new, and some are sure to start a fight with your friends (we’re looking at you, “The Dress”). You might be familiar with some, but they’ll never really get old. Let’s dive in.

The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion

Every year, the Neural Correlate Society hosts an “Illusion of the Year” competition, and Kokichi Sugihara’s Ambiguous Cylinder illusion took the top prize in 2016.  Look at the image below, would you believe us if we told you that the two shapes are actually mirror images of one another?

The ambiguous cylinder illusion created by Kokichi Sugihara and illustrated in the Museum of Illusions NYC blog.
The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion by Kokichi Sugihara.

The image is a screenshot from the video below, which shows Sugihara rotating the cylinder. If you pause the video at about 15 seconds in, you can actually see the cylinder’s true shape.

Hot Dogs or Legs?

Ah, “hot dogs or legs,” one of the first viral illusions to capture our hearts. It may be silly, but we love it nonetheless. If you are unfamiliar with “hot dogs or legs,” and the hold it had over mid-2010’s meme culture, then we are happy to inform you. It all started with a beach day…

The infamous hot dogs or legs illusion.
The infamous “hot dogs or legs?” viral illusion.

The picture, when posted on the internet sparked the question- is that a pair of tan legs, or a pair of hotdogs in forced perspective? The question of why someone would eat two naked hotdogs at once aside, the internet was instantly enamored with “hot dogs or legs.” So much so that it sparked subsequent Instagram accounts, Tumblr accounts, and the occasional uproar on Twitter.

For the record, in the picture above, it’s legs.

The Not-So-Red Strawberries

We’ve discussed Akiyoshi Kitaoka on the blog before, but did you know that he was also responsible for creating and sharing some of the best viral illusions? One of our favorites is the image of strawberries below.

Akiyoshi Kitaoka's grey strawberries illusion.
Are you seeing red? Not really. Grey strawberry illusion by Akiyoshi Kitaoka.

As you could probably tell from the heading, the strawberries in the photo are not actually red. In fact, there is no red in the image at all. But your brain knows that strawberries should be red, so it shows you red strawberries.

The Twelve Black Dots

Shifting back to less edible illusions, we have the illusion below which was originally published in Perception by Jacques Ninio and Kent A. Stevens. It became one of our beloved viral illusions when Akiyoshi Kitaoka posted it on Facebook. The image actually has twelve black dots in it…

The 12 black dots illusion by Jacques Ninio and Kent A. Stevens.
The Twelve Black Dots Illusion by Jacques Ninio and Kent A. Stevens.

When you look at it, you can only see one or two dots at a time, right? It’s because the image shows the weakness in our peripheral vision. When they are all circled like in the image below you can see them. But when they’re not? Your peripheral vision fails you.

The Dress

We can’t talk about viral illusions without mentioning “The Dress.” This unintentional illusion was originally posted to Tumblr by a 21-year-old singer named Caitlin McNeill. Little did she know, she was about to create a rift in the internet. Lifelong friendships were ended and families torn apart by this seemingly innocuous dress. Okay, not really, but it did cause quite a stir. Blue and black or white and gold? We don’t want to start an argument, so we’re going to let you take a look at the image below and decide for yourself.

The Dress viral illusion.
Blue and black or gold and white? You be the judge.

Do you love debating the color of The Dress? Are you always scouring the internet for the latest viral illusion? If so, then you’re our kind of person. Why not plan a visit to the Museum of Illusions NYC to experience our illusions firsthand? Click here to book your visit- see you soon!