Position cues from a moving shadow

Does the ball sometimes seem to be bouncing, and moving nearer and further away?  Look again just at the track of the ball and you’ll see that all it ever does is to move diagonally from one corner of the board to the other. The spatial effects, and even the way the ball seems to accelerate at points, are all down to the moving shadow.

When the shadow sticks to the ball, the ball seems to just move across the surface and into the distance. That’s remarkable, because the ball should appear smaller with distance, but in fact the image of the ball here doesn’t change. The shadow cue is so strong it over-rides the problem. As the shadow drops to the foot of the image, the ball appears higher in the space, but nearer to us.

Once again, the effects appear even though the ball does change at all in size, as it should according to the rules of perspective – though some viewers might see an illusion of size-change, compensating for the anomalous lack of real size change.

I’ve tried to base my animation demo pretty closely on one described by Daniel Kersten and colleagues in 1997, in their celebrated original publication of this effect.

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