Saccade Art Example

This web page hosts a Java applet that demonstrates "saccade art." The applet renders a collection of narrow vertical strips of light on a black background. The pattern of colors within each of the strips is changed rapidly by the computer. If the viewer allows her eyes to follow the apparent left-to-right movement, then a more filled-in image becomes "painted" on the her retina and the moving objects become clearer.

The speed of motion of the objects is limited by two factors: the speed of your computer and a built-in delay factor. The effect is stronger if viewed in a dark room with a good, bright monitor. You need Java for this applet.

Saccade art is a good example of a stimulus that creates a 2D image nowhere but in the cooperative observer's eye.

An excellent exhibit demonstrating this effect resides at San Francisco's Exploratorium. The exhibit uses several linear light arrays instead of a computer screen, and these light arrays are mounted high up on a wall. An animated program lasting several minutes is presented there with the technique in which a variety of shapes move in left-to-right, right-to-left, and even both directions simultaneously.

(This applet Created by Steve Tanimoto, 22 March 2006)


Due to more stringent Java security, it has become difficult to run applets on the web. Consequently, I have created a downloadable application, packaged in a Java .jar file. It's available via the link on the previous page. To use it, unzip the zip file, and double-click on the .jar file. If Java is correctly configured, you should be able to run the demo. Try varying the number of columns of pixels displayed in order to find out what it's like to barely see the patterns when the number of columns is low. I might help to use a large display in a dark room and to move your head and/or eyes left and right.