Virtual reality isn't ready yet. Oh, it's damn good—but it can't quite fully convince you that you are someplace you're not. But how sure are you of the "real world," anyhow? Today, Oculus guru Michael Abrash used these kickass optical illusions to show how fake our reality can be.

Remember The Matrix? Would you choose the red pill or the blue pill? (See above.)

Does it even matter if both pills are actually grey?

Think you're looking at yellow and blue squares in the pictures of 5x5 Rubik's Cubes below? Think again. (No, this doesn't quite explain that disgusting dress.) "The colors you saw were constructed entirely by your perceptual system," explains Abrash.

Below, the tile shaded by the table is lighter, right? "Your visual system is reverse-engineering reality," says Abrash.

And does this checkboard look a little... warped?

The only difference between it and the one below are the added dots. They trigger your contrast detecting cells differently than without.

Below, which table is longer?

Are these balls rolling in the same direction? Look at these objects closely, one at a time...

How does this straw pass right through the window?

"There are a number of cues on the window that imply a perspective that doesn't exist, so your visual system infers that the window is spinning backward for half a full rotation. This doesn't match up with reality, so you end up seeing something impossible," says Abrash.

How the heck is this dragon moving its head?

Perhaps the most stunning illusion Abrash trotted out, though, is known as the McGurk effect. Jump to 2:20 in the video below, look at the two sets of lips one at a time, and try to tell what this woman is saying.

Abrash's point is that our brains have been trained for ages to jump to quick, useful conclusions based on limited data, rather than seeing the real world for what it is—which proves that they can inherently be tricked.


Like Morpheus says in The Matrix—and Abrash quoted at the beginning of his keynote—humans have a very limited handle on reality.

"What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then "real" is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."

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