Magic Eye


By Julie Anderson


"Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World" by N.E. Thing Enterprises (photo credit: Abbas Discount Place)Back in the day, Tom Baccei and Cheri Smith, the creators of Magic Eye, came up with a fab book idea. However, they were unable to find a publisher in the U.S. for their project in 1991. (I’m sure the naysayers at Random House did some major facepalming a few years later, though.) Tenyo, a Japanese company, saw promise in their Magic Eye images and published their book. It became a bestseller, as did its follow-up book.


Baccei and Smith, sporting their Japanese laurels, quickly found a North American publisher. Magic Eye: A New Way of Looking at the World by N.E. Thing Enterprises hit U.S. shelves in 1993. This book and its two sequels spent 73 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Americans went nuts over the 3-D images that sprang like magic from flat 2-D pictures. Magic Eye images were all over the place: on notecards, mouse pads, lunch boxes, neckties, you name it. There’s even a Magic Eye comic strip.

So, what is a Magic Eye image? It’s an autostereogram. Magic Eye wasn’t the first autostereogram, but it’s the most famous. Regular stereograms have been around forever and a day. Did your grandma have a stereogram like this one? You slide a card with two almost identical side-by-side images into the stereogram, and when you peered inside, POOF! Instant 3-D! And if you didn’t experience the antique version of stereograms, no worries. I betcha you’ve peeked into a Viewmaster a time or two.

Autostereograms, such as Magic Eye, only use one image, so you don’t need a stereoscope. By repeating images in a wallpaper design and unfocusing your eyes in just the right way, the repeating patterns seem to pop out. Magic Eye images go one step further: they’re random dot autostereograms. Every pixel is modified with a computer so that a whole hidden 3-D scene can pop out.

And… ugh… Just thinking about the Magic Eye pictures makes my hand wander up to my temple and massage it lightly. Trying to see the Magic Eye images always gave me a headache, although my husband had no problem with it. Whatever, babe: talk to the hand.

However, in the interest of science, I dug out one of my kids’ Magic Eye books. Maybe it IS easier than I thought. Maybe if I just unfocus and relax I can see the gorilla riding the unicorn, too. I’ve heard that one needs to look through the picture while crossing one’s eyes…

Eh, my head hurts.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who wasn’t a member of the I See Hidden Images club in the nineties. Here’s a video that didn’t do much for me, but give it a go if you like:

I did find some tips here that you might find helpful. Give it your best shot. Whatever. Apparently, eye doctors use the technology to help people with various vision problems. Interesting.

And – OMG YOU GUYS! This tip actually works for me! If you’ve been denied the Eye, try this method. For realz! I think I’ve mastered the Magic Eye! Oh snap! Now, granted, I’m using an actual book and not a computer screen, but check it! I can do these too! Boo ya! The trick is to put your nose up to the image and unfocus, then move away s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y, pausing to blink and relax, but DON’T focus. Word.

Here’s another site you might enjoy. I have to say, though, that I think the paper versions are easier to see than the computer ones. Also, I kind of feel like I’m melting my brain by leaning in so close to the computer monitor. Anyhoodle, enjoy, and good luck finding the hidden 3-D pictures. If you’re not a member of the I See Hidden Images club, I hope you join it soon, because Magic Eye pictures are wicked sweet.


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