Your One-Stop Optical Illusion Coffee Shop

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Optical illusions are puzzles for the eye, inspired bits of visual trickery that can fool you into thinking near is far, big is small, or two dimensions are really three.

We’ve explored various optical illusions in the past, but never something quite as curious, or as immersive, as this.

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Welcome to Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20, a coffee shop in Seoul, South Korea, that is like a drawing come to life.

Designed to look like it’s composed of flat line sketches — essentially, comic strip-style art that you can interact with — the illusion is thoroughly impressive. Everything from chairs and tables to wall art, mugs, and serving containers help bolster the illusion that you’ve transcended space in a very peculiar way.

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Like slipping into the black-and-white world from the famous “Take on Me” music video by A-Ha, a visit to Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 is a mind-blowing experience.

And it’s a terrific place to snap some unforgettable pictures. When customers enter the scene, every photo feels like they’ve become part of the illusion, as if they’ve been Photoshopped into a drawing, rather than simply walking in or sitting down for coffee.

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The curiously named cafe — which takes its moniker from its street address — has become an international destination for people seeking a unique coffee-fueled tourist experience. This is particularly impressive, given that the cafe supposedly never advertised its opening! The owner claims it’s strictly a word-of-mouth success story.

Whether that’s true or not, you might just get a better chance of experiencing the pleasures of Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20 sooner than you think. You see, the owner hopes to franchise the business and open new shops across South Korea, and then expand outward into the world at large.

So, the next time you glance at a bit of trompe l’oeil art on the street, maybe give it a second glance. It might just turn out to be your new favorite coffee spot.

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[All images are courtesy of Cafe Yeonnam-dong 239-20.]


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The Curvature Blindness Illusion Strikes!

Optical illusions are puzzles for the eye. They reveal how different combinations of images — light and shadow, shape and density, foreground and background — can trick viewers into seeing something unexpected.

And we are still discovering new illusions that deceive and delight us.

In the above image, pairs of wavy lines run horizontally across the screen. In the white and black corners, they’re fine. But in the gray area, half of those wavy lines suddenly look like zigzags.

The only difference? The alternating pattern of light and dark patches on each line. In lines where the peaks of the waves are dark and the valleys are light, the wavy pattern remains.

But when the dark and light patches are the ascending and descending parts of the wave, our eyes interpret them as lines forming corners instead of wavy lines.

This is known as the curvature blindness illusion.

As with many optical illusions, this is all about contrast. The white and black backgrounds allow you to view the alternating pieces as one continuous wavy line, whereas the gray background forces you to regard those alternating pieces as individual segments.

Those individual segments are granted the illusion of three-dimensions, and our minds process the lighter ascending line and the darker descending line as “walls” forming a corner, rather than the rising and falling of a sine wave.

It’s amazing how distinctly different the pairs of lines look with just those small variations. Even knowing how I’m being manipulated, it’s still hard to convince myself that I’m not actually seeing what I’m seeing.

Very cool stuff.


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The Floor Is Not to Be Trusted.

We love optical illusions here at PuzzleNation Blog. They’re puzzles for the eye, mind-bending ways that our senses can be tricked by clever manipulators of color, angle, and perspective.

And if you’re looking for visual trickery in flooring, look no further than the tile wizards at Casa Ceramica, a UK flooring manufacturer that decided to kill two birds with one stone. (Well, more like many tiles than one stone, but I digress.)

Supposedly, they had a problem with people running down the hallway to their store, and wanted to dissuade such shenanigans.

So they created an optical illusion to make it look like the floor was more treacherous than it really is. That way, ne’er-do-wells would be forced to slow down for their own “safety.”

And not only are they making their place safer, but they’re showing off their impressive skills while they do so! It’s a win-win.

What do you think, fellow puzzlers? Will it work? Or is it just a clever marketing scheme to draw attention to their topnotch tile skills?

Although I firmly believe it’s just an ingenious way to get the word out about their company, they’re not wrong in thinking that this sort of thing could dissuade rambunctious types. Other designers and stores have employed similar trickery in the past.

I mean, if you were trying to get across this floor, would you risk running?

I think not.


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Puzzles for the Eye

I’m a huge fan of optical illusions and visual trickery. From trompe l’oeil paintings to the works of M.C. Escher, these pieces are sources of wonder, employing forced perspective and visual sleight-of-hand to create impossible objects and images with unexpected depth.

Essentially, they’re visual puzzles, left for you to sort out and examine at your leisure.

One of my favorites is also one of the simplest examples of multiple-perspective imagery: the Necker Cube.

As you can see, the Necker Cube appears to be in different configurations, depending on which part of the cube your eye interprets as facing you. By focusing on a different spot, the perspective shifts, and suddenly the cube is positioned differently.

There are numerous mindbending variations of the Necker Cube, some drawn as impossible figures, and others expanding on the illusion to further engage and disorient the viewer. Check this one out:

My eyes twitch a little just looking at it.

Usually, Necker Cube-style illusions have only two options, two perspectives between which they can shift. (Like in the old woman/young woman image that kicks off this post.)

But I recently discovered the following video, which features a three-dimensional image that can be viewed from three different perspectives:

It’s fascinating stuff, a perfect reminder that puzzles can be wordless and lurking in plain sight.