Cross Your Fingers, Cross Your Eyes: The Danger Field

By John Walker on August 14th, 2012 at 8:00 am.

It doesn't work here, silly.

You will hopefully remember the absolutely fantastic Record Tripping – a game from Bell Brothers that has you scrubbing your scroll wheel to fast-forward and rewind time to solve puzzles. Those Brothers have announced a new game, and while all that exists just now is a one-screen prototype, once I finally understood how it worked I realised I had to let you know. The Danger Field is a stereoscopic game, that relies on your going cross-eyed to experience a 3D effect. And here’s the thing – it works.

Clearly just now it’s not a game in any sense – it’s just proof that the tech works. And it’s well worth persisting to get it to for you. I have a strong astigmatism in my left eye, and as such watching films in 3D is a strained, frequently blurry effort. But this works for me perfectly. So even if you’ve given up on 3D as something for you (you know, within reason – it’s not going to restore sight to a blind eye – that we know of), it’s well worth a try.

The trick to having it work is to go cross-eyed until the two images blur into one in the centre, and then sort of relax your eyes. It takes a few goes, and it seems that the best you’ll get is a blurry mess, but then suddenly it falls into place. You should end up with three very clear versions of the image, but ignore the other two and focus on the one in the centre. At that point, that feather that’s floating around really rather does appear to be getting nearer and farther away.

If you’ve played around with these sorts of stereoscopic images before you’ll be saying, “Huh, so what?” But I hadn’t, and nor will have many others. The next step is imagining what potential there is for this as a game, which we should find out later this year. And if this didn’t seem enough to warrant a post for you, just go back and play Record Tripping, because I bet you haven’t.

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82 Comments »

  1. donmilliken says:

    Oh, no doubt this kind of thing works, I’ve seen it often enough in the past. It kills the shit out of your eyes if you look at stuff that way for any length of time though, making it an odd and potentially headache-inducing option for a game.

    • baby snot says:

      It kills the shit out of your eyes if you look at stuff that way for any length of time though, making it an odd and potentially headache-inducing option for a game.

      Isn’t this sort of thing detrimental to your eyesight with long term use? Especially, considering, most people would be playing this while looking at an LCD monitor?

      • Kdansky says:

        I will quote my optometrist: You can stare at Magic Eye pictures all day long, at most you’ll get tired. There is not long-term damage possible by relaxing or flexing muscles in your eyes.

        • elevown says:

          The problem isnt potential eye damage- its that straining the eyes to see these images- which i can do easily- will give you a headache if you do it for long.

          Who wants to play a game that will almost certainly induce headaches?

          It is also impossible to maintain the vision perfectly ALL the time even when you have got it- you will slip out of the unnatural focus now and then- just from looking away or blinking- and it will take you time to regain it- that also makes it sound a dumb option for a game.

          • Psymon says:

            It’s only a struggle to maintain focus because you aren’t used to it.
            Your complaint is akin to getting sore legs after sking for the first time. Your body / eyes / brain isn’t used to it so it causes a strain (physical and / or mental).

            Call me a freak if you must, but I can maintain focus on crossview sterescopic things for an extended period without discomfort.

            By no means am I saying I’m better than you, or that you are inept. All I’m saying is you cannot expect to be perfect at this when you are new to it.

    • Shivoa says:

      I really don’t mind this stuff (use my finger moving towards my nose to get the right angle for my eyes) but the two ghost images to either side, limited real-estate, and shallowness of the depth effect make a 120Hz monitor and shutter glasses a clearly superior option for those who have it (and 120Hz LCDs will become the norm eventually so it’ll just be a case of people opting to buy shutter glasses to support them in 3D if they want it).

      This is probably slightly more tiring than shutter glasses as you’re crossing your eyes for a rather close focus point while 3D glasses you change your visual angle to focus on different parts of the scene (which is why this technique has to have a more shallow depth than 3D glasses can offer for gaming – you can’t change your viewing angle difference between the two eyes without breaking the effect, unlike 3D glasses where you regularly focus you eye angle at different depths in the same way as you do in the real world). Of course, both technologies have the issue of requiring your lenses to depth focus on the distance of the screen surface while your angle focuses on different points (the virtual depth for 3D glasses, near the end of your nose constant for this method) so you have to get used to dividing those two things (and not expecting things out of your focus depth to be soft-focus – something that can be fixed in post with a log lag gaze tracking system in the future) in a way unlike your experience of the real world. Definitely one of those things where the more you use the tech the easier you find it to enjoy for longer sessions without getting bothered by the disconnect between lens and angle focus for each eye.

    • cassus says:

      The thing about crossing your eyes is that.. you actually do it ALL THE TIME. that’s how eyes focus on stuff. Just look at your finger at arms length, then move it closer to your nose while still looking at it. closest focus point you’re cross eyed like crazy, but it doesn’t hurt all that much. Once you find a comfortable distance from the screen where you can view the images cross eyed, the eye strain is minimal. Just spent a few minutes looking at the graphic on their website, and the first 20 or so seconds were a bit tricky, then my eyes sort of went “oh, well, I guess this is how you look at stuff now.. Right.” and it was effortless after that.

      Funny thing about eyes, and this is only somewhat related. If you wear mirror reflex goggles that flip the world upside down (the way a Hasselblad camera works, say) for a few days, all of a sudden you view the world the right way again.. take off the glasses and view the world with your bare eyes.. Everything is upside down for a while. Fun facts about eyes, I’m bringing them!

  2. Gwilym says:

    Wow. It really does just fall into place, almost out of nowhere. Strange experience. And once it’s in focus it doesn’t even feel like you’re straining anything – I’d be curious to know if you actually are, though.

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      felisc says:

      well it works but it’s not very comfortable :/
      quite fun to experience though.

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        AmateurScience says:

        My brain hurts.

      • Heliocentric says:

        Its not uncomfortable if you use your hands to block the right image from the right eye and the left image from the left eye and just look at the bird who is further away than your monitor (recommend you do this 4 feet from the screen.)

    • Henson says:

      Well, you cross your eyes all the time to look at things closer to your face. Crossing them to see this stereoscopic image should be little different than looking at something twelve inches closer to your eyes.

    • Aardvarkk says:

      I had to follow Mr Walker’s instructions to the letter, but when it finally worked it was really quite something.

      • Ragnar says:

        I couldn’t get it to work. If I tried to go crosseyed, I ended up with 4 blurry images. If I forced my eyes to cross by focusing on something right in front of me, I had 3 blurry images but the center image disappeared as soon as I tried to focus on it. Everytime I try to get it a center image, it disappears when I try to bring it into focus.

        But focusing on either image by itself gives me a fine sense of depth. It’s 2D, but it has depth, and I can see the feather going in and out of the image and circling around the bird, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to gain by getting the illusion to work.

  3. Kynrael says:

    This was… wow !

  4. yazman says:

    Not this magic eye shit. It’s never worked for me, ever. I remember it in the 90s and to this day I have never once been able to see anything in these.

    :’(

    • CrookedLittleVein says:

      My brother has the same problem. Can’t see 3D either. He didn’t realise until he went to see The Avengers.

      What an interesting day that turned out to be.

      OT: My eyes hurt.

      • yazman says:

        Oh, I can see 3d , I just can never see anything in these images. I stare and stare and they just don’t work. Been trying to see something in this for a good 20 minutes now and I can’t see shit.

        I feel like the guy in Mallrats where everybody can see a sailboat but he can’t see anything.

        • Tom Walker says:

          No, you’re not alone. I can watch 3D, don’t wear glasses, not colour blind, don’t struggle to see things six inches away or a hundred metres away.

          It’s a brain thing, I think. As soon as I get close to where I assume it should happen, something in my head goes, “Hey, this is out of focus – let me just fix that for you.” It’s utterly unavoidable.

          • P4p3Rc1iP says:

            Same thing here. Can see fine 3d in cinemas, but this stuff never worked…

          • yazman says:

            Great to hear somebody else is the same! :)

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            Harlander says:

            I’m glad to join the “these things don’t work for me” support group.

            It’s like “the trick is to deliberately go cross-eyed” is only slightly more feasible than “the trick is to throw yourself to the ground and miss.”

          • westyfield says:

            Same hear as well. 3D glasses – no problem. Both eyes work fine, but my eyes refuse to de-focus. I just end up staring at the middle of the screen.

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            Dare_Wreck says:

            Same here, too. I don’t wear glasses and can watch 3D movies, but I’ve never been able to see a Magic Eye-like picture before. I’ve often wondered if I have an ever-so-slight astigmatism that prevents me from seeing such pictures and doesn’t manifest problems in anything else…

          • Scrawnto says:

            I’m colorblind, wear glasses, and have an astigmatism, but I can view images like this and Magic Eye pictures just fine. Those things are not a factor.

      • xsikal says:

        Same here. I get a little bit of extra in-screen depth at 3d movies, but nothing ever actually projects out of the screen at me. At first, I assumed 3d had just changed in the 20+ years since Jaws3 (when images did come out of the screen). Instead, it looks like my corneal disease has something to do with it.

    • Reapy says:

      It’s a sailboat.

    • derbefrier says:

      yep me too, man i always have trouble with these. If i try long enough i might succeed but its hardly worth the effort for me. Its a novelty that’s fun for a few minutes then you realize it just gives you a headache

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      liquidsoap89 says:

      I don’t understand what this is supposed to even do… Is it supposed to look 3D like in the movies? All I see is 3 blurry birds.

  5. Eophasmus says:

    I’m reading this at work and the urge to try it out is great; I’m a dab hand at Magic Eye pictures. I fear I’ll get more than a few odd looks from everyone around me, though. One to save for home, methinks.

    EDIT: I took the plunge when no-one was looking. It works very well; actually quite different to standard Magic Eye pictures. I didn’t really feel I was cross-eyed.

    The idea of this being in a game is quite appealing, but certainly not one for 8-hour stints.

    EDIT 2: A mere 30 minutes later, an unpleasant eye-strain headache is welling up in my whimpering skull. All for the sake of a minute’s worth of eye-crossing. While the concept is interesting, I think I’d actually avoid this. I wonder if it causes any muscle damage?

    • The First Door says:

      It shouldn’t cause muscle damage, but if it starts hurting you should definitely stop! Scenes like this can confuse your visual system because you are getting conflicting depth cues which can lead to headaches or eye strain.

      The more you do this sort of thing in short bursts, the easier it becomes as your visual system adapts to deal with it, just like when you first get glasses on a new prescription you need to get used to them.

      • Psymon says:

        ^^ this.
        The point where your eyes meet (line of sight) is actually further away than when you’re reading a book.

        A headache is likely if you’re new to the method, as your brain isn’t used to focusing on something further away from the point where your line of sight meets.

        Don’t strain youself, but if you can get comfortable with this technique you can enjoy stereoscopic (or ’3D’ as it is called, sadly) much easier and in better quality.

        • Eophasmus says:

          Thanks, eye-science chaps! Good to know. I’m not inexperienced with Magic Eye pictures, but I suppose this stereoscopic technique is somewhat different. I may train my eyes to get used to it so that I can play this game without pain. In the meantime, Ibuprofen is my friend.

          • The First Door says:

            You’re welcome, always nice to know your knowledge is useful in very, very specific circumstances!

            Incidentally, they are fairly similar in the end (depending on the method you are using to see the Magic Eye Pictures), but the eye strain is made worse when the thing you are looking at is emitting light or the image is moving. After all, computer screens already cause you more eye strain as opposed to a book/paper!

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    Jarmo says:

    I’ve almost never been able to see anything in static, printed or online Magic Eye pictures, but this fell immediately into place. The 3D illusion and image clarity were very strong. Maybe the movement makes it easier to handle for the brain?

    Now my eyes feel strained and strange after watching it for a minute and I have the beginning of a headache. Not a pleasant physical feeling. I wouldn’t play a game like this, my head would explode.

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      c-Row says:

      It’s probably easier because it’s an actual image instead of something that looks like somebody tripped over a few buckets of fractals during an LSD trip.

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        Jarmo says:

        That’s a good point. Here your brain and unfocused eyes don’t need to randomly search for order in chaotic visual data. The image is already there and it’s a very high-contrast one. Most of the job is already done for your visual cortex. The right level of unfocusing your eyes is easy to find.

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      Jarmo says:

      Four hours later my eyes still feel a bit uncomfortable. Tut tut.

  7. Eukatheude says:

    I tried it some time ago, how is it even possible with glasses?

  8. squidlarkin says:

    It’s actually trivially easy to implement this effect, at least in Unity. Just put two cameras next to each other and set them to output to each side of the screen. Building a suitable game around the concept is of course the novel part.

  9. Psymon says:

    Really glad to see the cross view method getting some wider attention.
    I’ve been using this method for years, even before 3D got kicked up the arse again recently.

    If you want more examples, do a search for a group on flikr with ‘crossview’ in the name.

    Also, doing these IS different to ‘magic eye’ pictures. With this your eyes meet infront of the picture, but focus beyond that point. With magic eye pictures, your eyes meet behind the picture, but focus before that point.

    It does take a while to get used to crossing your eye, but I can do it on a whim now. As a benefit, I can watch all the videos available on youtube in 3D without any silly glasses or overpriced monitors :D

  10. sinister agent says:

    I’m one of those freaks who can cross my eyes voluntarily, and yeah, just from that still image I can see that the 3D effect works.

    Whether I’d want to play a game like that I don’t know, though. I mean, tv and games are already in 3D. Our brains understand how perspective and that work. There’s no need for illusions on a 2D surface, and until we have a leap forward to actual holograms or whatever, that’s all there really is.

    • Ragnar says:

      I’m pretty tired of this 3D craze. 3D movies, 3D TVs, 3D games, 3D books. None of it looks better to me than regular old 2D. I can see the 3D effect, and it’s cool at first, but then I notice that it’s not nearly as sharp and clear as 2D.

      I can get a 3D perspective from looking at a 2D image just fine. I’d much rather have sharp, clear 2D that my brain is easily able to translate into a 3D perspective than 3D that looks blurry, or requires me to wear glasses or cross my eyes, or may give me a headache.

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    golem09 says:

    A proof that the tech wroks. What tech? It’s a 2D image of a raven, that stays 2D even with cross eyes, and 2D image of a feather that is slighty offset compared to the raven.
    Interestingly enough, the idea of a crosseye stereoscopig game came to my mind just this week as well.
    But not in this boring 2-Images way.
    The other way for crosseye 3D were those images with seemingly random patterns, that you only had to blur for one phase of the pattern. It wasn’t as straining on the eye, because you don’t have to blur two whole pictures together, only the pattern phases, and it doesn’t even matter with which phases you start.
    example: http://joyerickson.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/magiceye.gif
    No my thought was a game that calculates these pictures in real time so that you actually see the movement in there. That would be awesome!
    But this complete pictures crosseye is nothing I’m getting excited about. The images have to be very small if you want it possible that people can blur them together. With the patterns, you could even go fullscreen on a 32HDTV without any problems.

    • Temple says:

      I <3 you. Heh.
      Anyway, very impressive do you have any links for more explaination of the tech?
      The image stayed after blinking, usually lose it on other examples, such that I was convinced the image had changed to a 2D shaded artwork to make it look 3D.

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      c-Row says:

      The problem with those images is that even when my eyes adjust to the pattern, I still have to guess what exactly I am looking at from the shape alone since the image is still covered in colourful camouflage.

  12. Ian says:

    +1 for can-see-3D-but-can’t-see-this. :(

  13. The First Door says:

    Oh no! My work is bleeding into my gaming!

    Seriously though, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with this. I’ve been impressed recently with the way Super Mario 3D Land uses 3D effects sensibly for fun little game play puzzles, so it definitely is possible to use this effect well. Plus Record Tripping is brilliant so it is in good hands.

    (P.s. Most of the headaches you get from viewing things in 3D are because content makers break a couple of basic guidelines of things you shouldn’t do.)

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      Harlander says:

      I’m curious about those things, now.

      • The First Door says:

        Oh, the guidelines? The biggest most important rule not to break is don’t make things pop out of the screen too much as it causes severe eye strain. Tell that to the RealD 3D trailer, or every 3D movie which has someone pointing a sword to the audience.

        The other big one is don’t have things which are popping out from the screen cut off by the edge of the screen as it really confuses your visual system. At the boundary between the image and the edge you see it at two depths simultaneously and your visual system can’t resolve which one it should be, so you keep switching between the two possible depths. Avatar was very, very guilty of this in places.

        The problem is, if you get stereoscopic content right people will forget they are viewing it in 3D as it looks natural… but then people think the 3D effect is rubbish.

      • The First Door says:

        Oh, also many of the ‘shutter glasses’ used in some 3D gaming screens/TVs flicker at 120Hz whereas many European fluorescent tubes flicker at 110 or 100Hz so you can see horrible flickering. Gives you a terrible headache in a couple of minutes, that does!

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          Harlander says:

          Thanks, my enlightenment has increased!

        • Shivoa says:

          Things like nVidia 3DVision are aware of this and so offer 100 and 110Hz modes as well as the 120Hz mode (with the config page you get to setup your system explicitly asking people to consider the potential flicker of their indoor lighting as an issue and set their system to match their lighting).

          • The First Door says:

            Indeed, I’ve used nVidia 3DVision and that does help a bit. Sadly I can still see quite bad flickering from them, no matter what refresh rate they are on. We couldn’t use them in the end as too many people were complaining of headaches!

  14. Vicho says:

    Oh god my eyes. This is surely some form of insidious torture trolling that I would have expected from the Cold War.
    Seriously now I need to lie down

  15. quintesse says:

    I just use these “glasses” for my stereo photography http://loreo.com/pages/products/loreo_pixi_3d_viewer.html and they work fine for this as well :)

    A lot more comfortable than any cross-eyed or staring-in-the-distance technique.

  16. Ravelle says:

    Doesn’t really become 3D in my eyes, only fuzzy and painful.

    Guess when this comes out I will just plug in my HDMI and put my television on simulate 3D with side to side.

  17. pakoito says:

    I can focus the birds, but not the mouse pointers. They need some adjustment.

  18. Dowr says:

    Well, I feel very annoyed right now, I can’t cross my eyes properly so this looks like a game I’ll have to ignore. Shame, because it looks very interesting…

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    Chaz says:

    How do you make images like this? I wouldn’t mind having a go at making a few myself.

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      Jarmo says:

      Take a photograph. Then move the camera to one side the equivalent of the distance between your eyes. Take another photograph. Voila, 3D photography!

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      Chaz says:

      Had a look online and gave it a go in photoshop. The simple and effective way is to copy a picture side by side, and then in the right hand copy, move what you want to look closer to the left and move what you want to look further back to the right. It doesn’t have to be much, 7 pixels or so should do it.

      I still have trouble trying to process the images when they are large though. Reduced down so that they fill no more than a quarter of the screen and my eyes can do it more or less straight away.

  20. kwyjibo says:

    If you find it too difficult to do the 3D thing, just zoom the picture out to lower the distance between them.

    This is from someone who’s managed to play SIRDS Quake.

  21. Bhazor says:

    Finally a practical use for those skills I got from those dumb DNA diagrams from all those stupid journal articles.

  22. Iskariot says:

    I am sure it works.
    It is just not something I want to play.
    I can do without the headache.

  23. Unaco says:

    It’s things like this that make me regret my Oedipism… Then I remember how good that water tasted.

  24. diamondmx says:

    This was in metal gear on PSP a while back.

  25. theallmightybob says:

    they have been doing this for ages with you tube videos and it was annoying to try and watch then. The novility quickly wears off when you realize how annoying it is to keep your eyes crossed for any period longer then about 5 minutes.

  26. Kefren says:

    Weird. I can do the pictures in books with no problem, but can’t overlap the images for this, they are too far apart. The pictures in books usually only have an inch or two to overlap.

    • Scrawnto says:

      Try sitting farther back. You won’t have to cross your eyes as much.

      • Kefren says:

        Nah, my office only lets me move back a few feet, and even at that distance all I can see is a black blob with a moving blob that keeps attracting my eye and messing with the focus.

  27. DellyWelly says:

    Do not try with hangover.

  28. Viper50BMG says:

    I just got the joke.

    “The Danger Field”

    As in Rodney Dangerfield.

    And you have to look at it cross-eyed to see the 3D effect?

    Ha!

  29. Gonefornow says:

    Blimey, nice idea.
    I’ve always been a natural with crossing my eyes for the amusement of many.
    So looking forward to this.

    The Record tripping game on the other hand makes me wary..
    What a mess that one is.
    Throw in as much colorful imaginary and overlapping audio lines as possible and you’re all set, eh.

    I did like the conveyor belt and the cats though.

  30. Scrawnto says:

    I used to play Garry’s Mod with a plugin that would render in a side by side stereoscopic mode like this. It was pretty awesome to throw a grenade, watch the red trail shoot forward into a crowd of baddies that then went soaring into the air in all directions in 3D. Good times. I also used to make sterescopic screenshots of games by moving the camera slightly between two sceenshots and placing them side by side. It was really neat to see places I was familiar with in WoW and the like but with depth.

    Man, I should get a 3D monitor. I would probably really like that stuff. Never gotten a headache from it in theaters.

  31. ZX k1cka55 48K says:

    Never could make those cross-your-eyes things work for me…
    So far all my attempts ended up with head/eye aches, so im not gonna bother with this one

  32. thebigJ_A says:

    I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with the picture. To cross my eyes, I look at my nose, or something else extremely close. They don’t just cross on their own. I can see several (4, mostly, not 3) blurry birds appearing and disappearing in the background, but as soon as I try to look at them, my eyes uncross. You know, ’cause that’s what eyes do.

    I can see 3D movies fine, and magic eye pictures worked back when I was a kid (never crossed my eyes at them to see the image, btw)

    So what exactly is the technique?

    • Psymon says:

      I found this video.
      http://youtu.be/UFf4aXv8Nx4
      It basically shows the exact technique I would try to describe in words, only makes it a lot easier with the visual aid I can’t get with using only words.

      The video does go a little fast, but shows all the important steps.
      Put a finger between your face and the image.
      Look at your finger.
      Pay attention to the image on the monitor.
      Try to get the image to line up so you only ‘see’ 3 copies (total) by adjusting the distance between your face and your finger.
      Shift your focus from your finger to the image without your eyes aiming (I really can’t think of the best word) back at the monitor.

      Practice makes…
      Best of luck.