Skip to main content

3D-printed optical illusion tricks your eyeballs into perceiving a cube

3D Printed Optical Illusion Cube
Whether it’s green strawberries that look red, painted “three-dimensional” road bumps or that argument-provoking dress, we are suckers for a good optical illusion. And 29-year-old Sage Hansen, aka YouTuber 3DSage, created a doozy.

Using a 3D printer, some ingenuity, and a fixed camera, he created a perception-skewing 3D cube that turns out to be anything but. In fact, the apparent cube is just a flat object with three raised pole-like sections jutting out at crazy angles. However, when it’s viewed from the correct angle, the effect is so convincing that our brain doesn’t question what we’re seeing at all. Until a cat comes along and suddenly blows our mind by putting its face through one of the cube’s “solid” edges.

Hansen notes that the cube illusion is an update of the kind of forced perspective chalk art that has done the rounds online for years. This type of illusion, which appears distorted from every angle except one, is referred to as anamorphosis — and actually dates back hundreds of years. One of the most famous early works in this genre is Hans Holbein’s 1533 painting, “The Ambassadors,” which features a 3D-looking skull which appears to be a white smudge from every angle except one. The effect was also employed by Leonardo da Vinci.


For Hansen’s creation, though, he used technology a whole lot more at home in the 21st century, although the theory behind the illusion remains the same. He started out by creating a virtual cube using 3D modeling software. Once he had settled on a camera angle he then began manipulating the image — drawing lines at random positions and angles — until he had a largely flat object that nonetheless matched up to his 3D cube. Finally, he printed the piece, shot the video, and uploaded it to YouTube.

The results are definitely eye-catching. While it works a lot better as a filmed effect than it would as, say, a desk ornament, it’s undeniably awesome. Hopefully, at some point, Hansen will share the 3D model online so that others can have a go at creating it for themselves. (Although, having seen how it’s done, it should be fairly straightforward to design your own variation.)

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Check out these 3D-printable getups
3D printed Halloween costumes

Still not sure what to dress up as for Halloween this year? Well, instead of frantically scrambling around town looking for the right shop with the right stuff, have you considered 3D printing your Halloween costume? Check out our list of 3D-printable masks and costume pieces to get all geared up for this year's spooking, then fire up that printer.

If you've already finished your costume and want to get started on your scary movie watchlist, we've put together a list of the best horror movies on Netflix.
Squid Game soldier mask

Read more
NASA is testing a 3D printer that uses moon dust to print in space
The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility, and the print heads, plates and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station.

The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility and the print heads, plates, and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station. Redwire Space

When a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this week, it carried a very special piece of equipment from Earth: A 3D printer that uses moon dust to make solid material.

Read more
AI turned Breaking Bad into an anime — and it’s terrifying
Split image of Breaking Bad anime characters.

These days, it seems like there's nothing AI programs can't do. Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, deepfakes have done digital "face-offs" with Hollywood celebrities in films and TV shows, VFX artists can de-age actors almost instantly, and ChatGPT has learned how to write big-budget screenplays in the blink of an eye. Pretty soon, AI will probably decide who wins at the Oscars.

Within the past year, AI has also been used to generate beautiful works of art in seconds, creating a viral new trend and causing a boon for fan artists everywhere. TikTok user @cyborgism recently broke the internet by posting a clip featuring many AI-generated pictures of Breaking Bad. The theme here is that the characters are depicted as anime characters straight out of the 1980s, and the result is concerning to say the least. Depending on your viewpoint, Breaking Bad AI (my unofficial name for it) shows how technology can either threaten the integrity of original works of art or nurture artistic expression.
What if AI created Breaking Bad as a 1980s anime?
Playing over Metro Boomin's rap remix of the famous "I am the one who knocks" monologue, the video features images of the cast that range from shockingly realistic to full-on exaggerated. The clip currently has over 65,000 likes on TikTok alone, and many other users have shared their thoughts on the art. One user wrote, "Regardless of the repercussions on the entertainment industry, I can't wait for AI to be advanced enough to animate the whole show like this."

Read more