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The Ames Room Illusion

One of the most amazing optical illusions is Ames Room where visitors can step inside and make an experience that they never have before. Ames Room is one of the most popular exhibits. And one of the most notable illusions. When people step inside the room, the first thing that comes to mind is what happens in this room. This amazing optical illusion is also commonly used for practical effects in movies and television. The illusion is powerful enough to overcome other information about the true locations of objects in the room, such as familiar size. The interesting thing is visitors know that can not change their size but what happens in this room.

What is an Ames Room?

It’s a room that is built with both the floor and ceiling at an angle, creating forced perspective and tricking your eye into thinking both sides of the room are the same. The actual shape of the room is a trapezium. This means if twins stand at either side of the room, one will appear large and the other will appear small. But why exactly does an Ames Room make objects appear to grow and shrink?

Imagine you were standing in front of a cow and could also see a cow in the distance – the cow in front of you would appear large and the cow in the distance would appear smaller. This room is based on the same concept. When a person moves to the left-hand side of the room, they are actually further away and the ceiling is higher. They appear as a smaller image on your retina and you, therefore, perceive them as small. The second illusion is that within this Room, people or objects can appear to grow or shrink when moving from one corner to the other. This trick is also related to the specific shape of the room.

The history of Ames Room

It all starts with a man named Von Helmholtz. Von Helmholtz is commonly known as the father of modern perception studies. In the late nineteenth century, he has an idea for a “distorted room”. What if a room could be distorted in some way, but also look like a completely normal rectangular? He was even the first to discover the impact of experience on perception. This distorted room would take advantage of people’s depth perception and perspective. It causes the birth of one of the most prevalent illusions of all time.

What is happening in Ames Room?

This unbelievable room is constructed so that, when looked at head-on, it appears to be a normal rectangular room. In reality, the room is a trapezoid. The walls are slanted, and the ceiling and floor are built at an angle. The illusion can be enhanced by adding a visual cue on the back wall, such as the one pictured below. We placed our Ames room in the museum of illusion namely Roya Park.

Ames Room in movies and television

Like we said earlier, you’ve almost definitely seen this room in action before. Even if you didn’t know it. One of the most famous uses of the Ames Room effect in cinema is in the Lord of the Rings TrilogyCinematographers used this optical illusion to make the hobbit and dwarf characters look small and the other characters appear to be looming over them. For example, the interior shots in the Shire that show Gandalf towering over Bilbo in the first movie are all thanks to forced perspective. Some other well-known cinematic examples appear in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Elf, and even digitally replicated in Super Mario 64.


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