This Math Professor Creates Perplexing Optical Illusion Objects

Kokichi Sugihara is a math professor that also creates award-winning optical illusions.
Jessica Miley
One of Sugihara's award winning illusionsMakeAnything/YouTube

Kokichi Sugihara is an optical illusion specialist. The maths professor and inventor both writes about and creates optical illusions that will have you stumped. 

His inventions have earned him first place at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest in 2010 and 2013, and second place in 2015 and 2016. Sugihara studied mathematics at the University of Tokyo.


Right Pointing Arrow: spin this arrow 180 degrees and it still points to the right- only in a mirror will it point left (and only to the left). Another incredible ambiguous object illusion by mathematician Kokichi Sugihara of Meiji University in Japan, the inventor of this illusion and art form. A clever combination of reflection, perspective, and viewing angle produce this striking illusion. ➡️ Follow the link in my profile for info about where to get this illusion arrow and other amazing items featured here on @physicsfun #illusion #ambiguouscylinderillusion #ambiguouscylinder #geometry #mirrorreflection #physics #ambiguousobject #kokichisugihara #physicstoy #math #mathtoy #mathstoy #optics #opticalillusion #3dprinting #perspective #science #scienceisawesome

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Research in computer science led to optical inventions

He has worked at various Japanese universities and he is now a professor at Meiji University.


Sugihara studies computer vision or pattern recognition, a field of computer science and mathematics that researches the way computers understand 2D illustrations of 3D objects. 

His research has led him to create the new field of “Computational illusion”. He describes the work on his website saying, "Computational illusion is aimed at studying human visual illusions mathematically. If we could reveal how and under what conditions human visual illusions occur, we would be able to numerically express the strength of visual illusions and control the quantity." 

Impossible Rooftop illusion seems to defy gravity

It is from this type of thinking that has allowed Sugihara to become a master of the optical illusion. One of his most famous illusions is the 'Impossible Rooftop' illusion. The object, when viewed at one angle, looks entirely different from another. 

In a video demonstrating the illusion, you see a hand placing small round balls onto a what appears to a sloping roof, but the balls simply roll around and seem to settle on the slope, defying gravity. Another example is the 'Nautilus folding ladder.'

In this video, what appears to be a folded paper structure is punctured by a red rod, though each time the rod moves your understanding of the shape changes. It’s at once incredibly frustrating and amazing. 

The brain makes assumptions that help us navigate space

These tricks work because our brain makes assumptions about perception and depth, the same skills that allow us to move around the world without bumping into things also makes us susceptible to these kinds of clever illusions. 

Impossible Motion illusion will frustrate and delight

In 2010 Sugihara won the Illusion of the Year contest with his ‘Impossible Motion’ illusion. The video shows a 3D model that appears to have four slopes facing downwards from a common top point. 

When wooden points are places on these slopes, they surprise the viewer by rolling up, as if drawn by magnets, rather than down. The trick is revealed when the 3D Form is viewed from another angle, and it can be seen that the slopes actually slope downwards. 

The illusion works because our brain thinks that each supporting column of the object is vertical. and that the longest column in the center is the highest. But actually, the columns are cleverly angled to create the illusion. 

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