Monday, 15 November 2010

Project Onomatopee: "Future" (October 2010)

For October's Project Onomatopee theme of "Future" I decided to try something really conceptual; but before explaining what it is, here is the image that I submitted:

[Addendum - 18/11/10: If you can see NOTHING other than text in the image above then please read the rest of this article before investigating the "easier-to-see" images that I've added to the bottom of this blog post... I've added these new "easier-to-see" versions of the image in order to compensate for the contrasting colour/brightness settings of different computer screens. Please scroll slowly between each image so as to not spoil the surprise - because the hidden picture becomes more and more obvious the further down you scroll!].

What you should see at first glance:
You should be seeing a black page with some white text at the top and bottom, as well as a very dark grey rectangular box surrounded by a thin white outline.
If you cannot see the very dark grey box you may need to adjust your computer monitor slightly until the black/grey colour difference becomes vaguely visible.

So the image suggests that the future is a big black hole?:
Nope, it's a bit more complex than a simple image like that... To discover the message you will need to click on the image for the full-size version, and then, depending on whether or not the dark grey box is completely visible on-screen (or half hidden off-screen) you may need to scroll down a bit. Once you have the dark grey box completely visible on-screen simply stare into it for a few seconds and all should slowly be revealed!

What should happen?:
As you stare into the dark grey box you should gradually begin to notice various grey dots appearing out from the darkness. As your eyes get more accustomed to the darkness, you should begin to see some patterns forming from the grey dots, until eventually you see a little drawing appear on the right-hand-side of the box alongside a short message on the left-hand-side of the box.

How is this relevant to the "future" theme?:
This is where the image gets conceptual. Rather than being a simple image where the picture displays a clear message, this image is more experimental and requires both interaction and a bit of time to become understandable... So in this regard, the "future" theme of the image is not simply that the future is a mysterious black hole, but rather that you have to look into the image and wait until the near future [in real-time] before you can see the full image!

How was this image inspired?:
It was basically just a quick experiment (which wasn't quite as quick as I originally anticipated) that I was curious to discover whether or not would work.
It's based on eye sight, the night sky, and optical illusions. For example when you look at the sky on a clear dark night you originally see only a few bright stars, but as you stare into the dark sky for a longer time your eyes slowly adapt to the darkness allowing you to see more and more stars.
With the creation of this image I wanted to test whether or not a similar effect could be achieved digitally on a computer screen. I had thought about creating something similar to the Ishihara Test for colour blindness (the circles made of coloured dots that contain a hidden number or shape), however the success of such an image would depend greatly upon a number of variables including: the colours used, the colour calibration of different computer monitors, and the potential colour blindness of my audience. Therefore it was very likely that such an image would be visible to most - if not all - people, and require no time at all to become fully visible, which misses the point of the future-themed image.
For the simplest, and hopefully best result, I stuck to simply using black and grey tones (similar to the night sky and stars) to test my theory about whether or not the experimental image would work.
The image was easy enough to create, and certainly on my own computer it seems to work, however I still have my doubts about whether or not it works properly: Is it too dark/hidden? Is it too bright/obvious? Can other people see it all or only part of it? How long does it take to see it? Is the end result worth the time?
Perhaps this style of image would work better when printed - where it looks relatively consistent for everybody; rather than on a computer screen where the brightness/contrast, surrounding lights, and viewing angle can all affect how the image appears.

I don't know if I'll try doing more advanced work with this technique, but it'd be useful to hear whether or not the image worked properly for you and what you thought of it.

Sorry if it hasn't worked and it only wasted your time!

[Addendum - 18/11/10]
Here is the "easier-to-see" sequence of images that gradually reveal the hidden picture within the original image. Please scroll down slowly so as to not spoil the surprise:


  1. With my screen resolution, I had the black area on the left and huge white area on the right which probably didn't help much.

  2. Nope didn't work for me either - but then I could never get those picture puzzles with the image embedded and only could be seen by focusing beyond the surface. Use to frustrate the hell out me, my husband and kids all agreeing there were several unicorns in the picture when all I could see was daisies!

  3. Thanks for the feedback:

    - Alan: I'm guessing that the "black area on the left and huge white area on the right" is because your internet browser has shown the image at a fit-to-window size rather than at the full-size... To test this, try moving your mouse pointer over the image: The pointer should have changed from the standard white arrow to a magnifying glass? If this pointer change does occur then click on the image again, and it should now go to full-size.

    - Jacqui: Thanks for letting me know. It didn't work on my dad's laptop, so I'd assume that it's your computer brightness/colours that prevent you from seeing the hidden image... (I could never 'see' those hidden picture puzzles either!)

    I'll try editing the image tomorrow and create a few more versions (each with a slightly stronger brightness contrast) so that anyone who can't see the hidden image just now will not miss out on it.


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