What’s the deal with “magic eye” images?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

What is it with those Magic Eye books anyway? I mean, what is their purpose, who first invented them, can I myself make one, and what are they really called? I talked to a friend, and she said that someone invented one that is sort of like a drug. You just stare at it and get high off of it. Is this true, or is she just lying? If you do answer, thanks.

Di and WildBabe reply:

According to N.E. Thing Enterprises, the company that holds the copyrights, “Magic Eye is the method of viewing a unique 3D picture that can be printed on plain paper with no special coatings, and viewed without special glasses…. Some people people call early variations of MAGIC EYE pictures Single Image Random Dot Stereograms. Some other people do not believe any of this, but that’s another story.” Dr. Bella Julesz was the first to use computer generated 3D images made up of randomly placed dots to study depth perception in human beings. To view Magic Eye images, find out more about Magic Eye, or order a custom design, see http://magiceye.com. N.E. Thing doesn’t sell the software, but a DOS-based shareware program called “3D Fun and Magic” is available through ZDNET.

Can you get high from Magic Eye pictures? We don’t know about that. But we do know you can get one heck of a headache.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

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