A faculty member from the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences writes, "Hybrid image is a unique technique that produces static images with two interpretations, which change as a function of viewing distance. Hybrid images are based on the multiscale processing of images by the human visual system and are motivated by studies about how the brain perceives the visual world. These images can be used to create compelling displays in which the image’s interpretation changes as the viewing distance or the size of the image change. "Hybrid images can create displays where details become visible only when seen up-close, they can be used for generating photographs of people with two different facial expressions, for showing into one image two different scenes. The method can also be used for displaying text that is not visible for people standing at some distance from the display, as well as to create diagnostic tests of perception for people suffering from visual or brain disorders. Hybrid images have been exposed in numerous museums of science and art galleries all other the world, and have been featured in scientific and popular magazines and books. "A combination of art and science skills permit to create hybrid images with forceful effect: one of the most compelling displays of hybrids, named “Eight Einsteins”, is a unique piece, currently exhibited at the MIT Museum, in the Mark Epstein Innovation Gallery. One of the Eight Einstein is shown here: from close up, you should perceive Albert Einstein. Step back slowly, or change the size of the image on your screen, and Albert will dissolve to let place to Marilyn Monroe. Hybrids are not illusions: they teach how the brain sees the world. "The display Eight Einsteins was created for the MIT museum, by a faculty at MIT. Hybrid images permit to teach how to brain sees the world, by creating compelling art pieces. Most importantly, this technique has numerous applications, from creating diagnostic tests of perceptual deficits for people with visual and cognitive disabilities, to creating displays where information is hidden to distant viewers."
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  • (To the moderator — I’m trying to find a subject for this one. The “tags” with your nominated “Hybrid Images” include “Illusion” and “Visual Perception”; either of these would be fine with me.)

    In 1963, I took a course on image processing and television design issues with Prof. William F. Schreiber. Dr. Schreiber took a very comprehensive view of the television design environment, bringing to bear the scan rate, number of lines per frame, and even the retention of visual images on the human retina (about 0.1 sec.). On the subject of color, it was generally agreed that measurement is three-dimensional (e.g., red-green-blue or cyan-magenta-yellow), but Prof. Schreiber wanted to allow Edwin H. Land, co-founder of Polaroid Corp., to state his claims that color could in certain cases be reduced to two dimensions.

    In those days, Polaroid was but a short walk from M.I.T. It was a nice day, and we all went on a “field trip.” Edwin Land greeted us, and ushered us into a very comfortable screening room with a projector. He showed us still photos that took advantage of the human retina’s propensity to envision an “opposite” color when saturated with a given predominant color. His presentation included pictures designed to play on our brains’ expectations that certain objects “must be” of a certain color (e.g., evergreen trees “must be” green).

    It was an interesting and memorable experience. I recall it whenever I drive by the CambridgeSide Galleria and happen to glance at the street sign: Edwin H. Land Blvd.