Peopo-kun’s here to remind us how tragically naive our brains are.
The Internet is full of optical illusions, from real-life trickery with angles and mirrors to playful CGI shading games. But all this time the optical illusion world has been sorely lacking in Japanese mascot characters, so it was interesting to finally stumble across this one posted by Twitter user Jagarikin (@jagarikin).
このGIF、ピーポくんはまったく動いてません。 人間の脳は単純なので矢印で惑わされてしまうのでーす https://t.co/898wMaLep9
じゃがりきん (@jagarikin) June 09, 2019
What we’re looking at is really quite simple. It’s just an orange silhouette with a beveled border and background which oscillates back and forth across the grayscale. However, as a result of the rapidly changing shades, it appears that the character is moving in the direction of the arrow superimposed on the screen.
You can tell by taking your gaze away from the arrow and looking at the tip of the antenna or bottom of the feet to see that compared to the edge of the picture, it doesn’t move at all. This is a take on the Perpetual Diamond, an illusion developed by Arthur Shapiro and Oliver Flynn in 2018.
The perptual diamond: The diamond remains fixed in one place but appears to move up, down, left, or, right. See ho… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
Arthur Shapiro (@agshapiro2) June 02, 2019
However, rather than a plain old shape, Jagarikin’s gif uses Peopo-kun, the mascot for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, and he can be quite trippy even outside of optical illusions.
Whatever the subject, it’s an impressive illusion. At first it might seem like it’s the arrow that’s confusing our minds, but there’s even more at work, as discovered by some of the comments.
“That’s great. It really looks like it’s moving.”
“The brain is really easy to trick, isn’t it.”
“It still moves even without the arrow…”
“The arrows are a trick too. The main part is the slight changes in the border of Peopo-kun.”
“It’s an interesting technique to give a sense of movement without changing any coordinates.”
It’s true that even if you completely cover the arrow with your hand you can still see Peopo-kun moving around and changing directions in the same order as with the arrow. This is because the direction of his movement is completely guided by the degree of contrast between each of the constantly changing edges of Peopo-kun and the background.
And as the other comment pointed out, this is a technique that could be utilized in computer animation and video games to give an illusion of movement to an otherwise stationary object. I’m pretty sure it’s the same trick that the Atari 2600 version of Defender used to fool my 5-year-old mind into thinking it had even remotely coherent graphics.