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Watch This 3-D Portrait Of Einstein Magically Morph Into Marilyn Monroe

Swiss artists Drzach&Suchy use rapid-prototyping to turn 3-D computer models into mind-blowing optical illusions.

Look at Conversation, a new installation by Swiss artists Drzach&Suchy, and you’ll see a huge pixely portrait of Albert Einstein. But look again a few seconds later, and you’ll see–as plain as the mole on her face–a portrait of Marilyn Monroe.

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Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. Conversation is a 3-D printed “shadow casting panel” that uses subtle shifts of light to uncover images embedded in the surface. Cast light one way, and shadows align across the panel to produce a portrait of Einstein. Cast light a different way, and the shadows reveal Marilyn’s lovely little pout.

Conversation is one of three installations that Drzach&Suchy developed at the Swiss Science Center Technorama to explore light and shadow play. Each exploits the conveniences of rapid-prototyping to turn a 3-D computer model (rendered in Google SketchUp) into a mind-blowing optical illusion.

Time is a 3-D printed orb with seemingly random grid-like panels that are actually custom-designed to cast three separate shadows–a clock, an hour glass, and a sundial–as it rotates around an axis. Tik-Tak is a nearly 6-foot-wide, water-jet cut Forex disc that says “tik” then “tak” as it swings back and forth between different lighting conditions, mimicking the motion of a pendulum clock. It might seem like magic. But the artists insist otherwise. “It is really simple,” they tell Co.Design in an email. “No high-tech electronic displays or components. Just geometry, directed light, and shadows.”

[Images courtesy of Drzach&Suchy]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.

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