Transform Your Perception of the World with Upside Down Glasses


Ever wondered what the world looks upside down? You would be surprised at how many people are curious about the same thing and some have even gotten to the point of designing a device that allows people to see the world through altered vision.

Here’s one from acclaimed Belgian artist Carsten Höller:

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Höller created the device way back in 1994, based from a creation made from George Stratton in the 1890’s. It is similar to a periscope and uses prismatic glass to give users an inverted perception of the world.

Speaking of Mr. George Malcolm Stratton, he pioneered the study of perception. To aid with this study, he designed the very first upside down goggles.

Ever since the time of Leonardo da Vinci, people were fascinated about the way our eyesight would see the world the right way up when our retinas reflect it upside down. Stratton did not only address that with his creation, but he also made people see images from left to right. The device worked by attaching a set of mirror to a harness and helmet.

Here is an actual photo:

Stratton, who is recognized for founding the psychology department is UC Berkeley. He had been working on the glasses for quite a while, even wearing it for eight straight days during his stay at Berkeley. Like most experiments, things weren’t going as smoothly as he imagined. Nausea and extreme dizziness did not deter Stratton’s determination to complete his conquest, and he finally began to adjust to the images on the seventh day of his investigation.

Naturally, Stratton had to adjust to the world without the glasses as soon as his experiment was over. This is a warning that goes to users of the modern version of this glasses: you may lose your normal orientation. 

Stratton pushed the envelope by conducting an experiment wherein he wore mirrors attached to a harness so he could actually see himself move. It went to the point that Stratton felt like he was having an out of body experience. According to his study, the purpose of this was to prove that humans “build up an association between sight and touch by associational learning over a period of time”.

Stratton then tried this experiment with other subjects, and even if their brains gradually adjusted to their sense of vision it eventually went back to normal when it ended. This sheds light to the topic of perceptual adaptation which is defined by the way the brain and sensory system responds when exposed to the same stimulus over and over again. In more extreme experiments, scientists had pilots fly a plane with altered vision by fashioning them with goggles that did so. The end result of the gripping experiment was equally impressive as all the pilots were able to navigate their planes at ease.

Overall, Stratton’s study and the many others that continue to day have all demonstrated key evidences on how fascinating, resilient, flexible and amazing the human mind can be.

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