Have you ever seen posters that look like computerized abstract art, and had someone tell you that there is really a recognizable 3D image in them? If so, you probably fall into one of two camps of people: those who can see the image, and those who can’t. If you fall into the second camp, you probably get very frustrated as you look and look at the image and nothing materializes. There are some techniques you can practice that may help you to focus on the image, but first, let’s look at the history of these images and how they work.
Autostereograms aka Magic Eye Pictures
The abstract images are called autostereograms, also known by the brand name Magic Eye. Autostereograms are based off of stereograms, which is a pair of images that are taken from slightly different angles. When used with a special viewer like a stereoscope, or simply with crossed eyes, the pair of images converge into one 3D image. These were very popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries as ways to “experience” other parts of the world without traveling there. With the development of computers, autostereograms began to be developed, which “hid” the image inside a seemingly abstract pattern.
Stereograms and autostereograms are often used in vision therapy, since viewing the images requires the eyes to work well together. It can be used to develop or strengthen binocular vision as well as some vision disorders.
Tips to Easier Magic Eye Viewing
The key to viewing stereograms and autostereograms is to either cross your eyes (converge) or diverge your eyes (the opposite of crossing – looking beyond the poster). They require you to focus in front or behind the poster to see the image. If you stand too close to the poster, you may not be able to diverge your eyes enough to view the image. Also, if the poster is designed for divergence and not convergence, and you cross your eyes to view the image, the image will be inside-out. You must use the technique the image was designed for to view it properly. Be patient; it can take weeks before successfully seeing the 3D design inside the image. Once you learn how to view the images, though, you will not forget how to see them; it is much like learning to ride a bicycle!
Some ways that you can attempt to train your eyes to see the image follow. First, stand close to the image or hold the image close to your face and focus past the image. Slowly move the image farther away while keeping your eyes focused on the same distant point. Eventually the image may appear. Also try focusing past the image, then bringing the focus back to the image, then relaxing focus past the image again. Sometimes going back and forth helps relax your focus enough to bring it to the right point. Finally, if these techniques do not help, practice them on an actual stereogram; it is easier to tell when you have converged two separate images than it is to tell if you have reached the right point with a Magic-Eye-type image. With a stereogram, you simply diverge your eyes until the two images form a central single image, which will be 3D. Once you have mastered stereograms, move onto autostereograms. Soon you will be flying through the Magic Eye books with ease!