全天幸运飞艇数据网页。

When Magic Eye Pictures Ruled the World—and Frustrated Millions of People

In the 1990s, millions of people spent a lot of time staring at images like this one.
In the 1990s, millions of people spent a lot of time staring at images like this one.
Amazon

When Magic Eye creator Tom Baccei welcomed executives from General Mills to the offices of his N.E. Thing Enterprises company in 1994, he led them to a mock-up cereal advertisement he had his employees put together. The board a bowl of cereal and an ill-defined series of dots. When their eyes relaxed, the executives were able to make out the “hidden” message in the bowl: BUY ME.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。“Oh, no, we can’t do that,” one executive said.

Baccei thought it was funny. By that point, his company needed no subliminal messaging in order to be successful. Sales of products featuring his wildly Magic Eye illustrations—which appeared to be two-dimensional abstract images until the viewer’s brain “switched” and perceived it as a three-dimensional image—were set to hit $100 million. Two Magic Eye books were on the New York Times全天幸运飞艇数据网页。 bestseller list. Posters, coffee mugs, cards, games, and postcards were emblazoned with the optical effect. Soon, they’d be on boxes of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, too. Baccei knew they were all staring at a fad, but he was determined to make the most of it.

The Magic Eye images were based on principles that stretched as far back as 1828, when English physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone a device called the stereoscope that could merge two images together to create the illusion of depth. The trick amused royalty like Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In 1959, a cognitive psychologist named Béla Julesz was able to take these illustrations, known as single image random dot stereograms, and make them visible to the naked eye. To achieve this, Julesz created one image of uniform, randomly distributed dots. One circular space would be shifted slightly in a second image. When viewed side-by-side, a circle appeared to “float” above the background. Julesz proved depth perception was a function of the brain, not the eye.

This stereopsis, or 3D effect, works because the brain essentially marries the two of them together to avoid experiencing double vision. Further work by visual neuroscientist Christopher Tyler in the 1970s condensed the illusion to a single image. But it would be Baccei who would turn this clever sleight of sight into a national phenomenon.

In the 1970s, Baccei was a bus driver for Green Tortoise, a purported “hippie” transportation company. He eventually moved on to work for Pentica Systems, a computer hardware company located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. There, Baccei was tasked with advertising a MIME in-circuit emulator, which helped debug computer systems. Perhaps inevitably, he hired a mime for the ad.

The performer, Ron Labbe, happened to be a 3D photography enthusiast and brought along a stereo camera. When Baccei asked where he could get more information about the hobby, Labbe directed him to Stereo World magazine. There, Baccei saw one of the single image random dot stereograms and was amused by the visual trick. While it appeared to be nothing more than television static, focusing on it revealed circles and dots.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。He decided to design one for Pentica, which “hid” the model number of a new product in the dotted image and prompted readers to contact them for a prize if they could see it. The ad became so popular that readers tore the page out of the magazine and pinned it up in offices or faxed it to associates.

Believing he was on to something, Baccei partnered with graphic artist Cheri Smith, who helped him create more involved images on a computer instead of the generic clip art he had been using. A Pentica co-worker named Bob Salitsky was able to refine the dots for a sharper image. Look at a picture of some tropical fish, for example, and a fish tank would appear. By 1991, Baccei was working on his own start-up, N.E. Thing Enterprises, and taking assignments for the illustrations. One of the images appeared in the American Airlines magazine American Way, where it caught the eye of Japanese businessmen. Soon, Baccei was working with Tenyo Co. Limited on a series of books and posters. While Baccei called the pictures Stare-e-os, the Amazing 3D Gaze Toys, the Japanese sold the images under the name Magic Eye.

That in-flight image also caught the attention of Mark Gregorek, a licensing agent who approached Baccei and told him there was incredible potential for partnering with other companies to create more Magic Eye content. Gregorek secured a deal with book publisher Andrews McMeel in 1993 as well as a variety of other licensees. Magic Eye was positioned to take off in America, though it’s not likely anyone anticipated what happened next.

A 2015 Magic Eye calendar is pictured
Magic Eye was licensed out for dozens of products, including calendars.
Amazon

After an initial 30,000 print run of the $12.95 Magic Eye book collection sold out, Andrews McMeel distributed 500,000 more copies. Both Magic Eye and Magic Eye II全天幸运飞艇数据网页。 became bestsellers. N.E. Thing Enterprises—which officially changed its name to Magic Eye in 1996—made deals with many other companies for postcards, posters, a syndicated comic strip, and 20 million boxes of cereal. Mall kiosks, which were actually the product of a rival company named NVision Grafix, saw scores of people staring intently at the stereogram images. If one member of the group suddenly “got it,” the others would continue glaring in frustration. Those who couldn’t see the image—which, by one estimate, was up to 50 percent of people—were to put their nose close to the surface but have their eyes aimed further away. By slowly moving the page away, an image of surprising depth would appear. Magic Eye and similar products became a social obsession.

As revenues surpassed $100 million, Baccei knew that he couldn’t hold everyone’s attention forever. Like the Pet Rock, the Hula Hoop, and dozens of other fads, consumers would eventually have their attention diverted elsewhere. There were also the inevitable knock-offs, which might sell for as little as $5 for a poster compared to an official Magic Eye offering for $25. An attempt to humanize the pictures by having a corporate mascot, the wizard Wizzy Nodwig, failed to take off.

With business slowing in 1995, Baccei sold his portion of Magic Eye to graphic artist Smith and another partner, Andy Paraskevas. The company is still around, though it has refocused its attention on corporate clients who want to utilize the images for commercial purposes. You can check out images on their , but Magic Eye that the effect works best on the printed page.

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Bo Knows Everything: Remembering Nike's Legendary Bo Jackson Ad Campaign

Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Mike Powell, Allsport/Getty Images

It may have been difficult for Nike to conceive of any athlete being able to do more for its company than Michael Jordan. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Chicago Bulls star was omnipresent, helping turn their Air Jordan line of sneakers into a squeaky chorus in school hallways and gyms around the country. Even better, the company had scored big with “Just Do It,” an advertising slogan in 1988 that became part of the public lexicon.

There was just one issue. In spite of Jordan’s growing popularity and their innovative advertising, Nike was still in second place behind Reebok. No other athlete on their roster could seemingly bridge the gap. Not even their new cross-training shoe endorsed by tennis pro John McEnroe was igniting excitement in the way the company had hoped.

In 1989, two major events changed all of that: An advertising copywriter was with inspiration, and two-sport athlete Bo Jackson slammed a first-inning home run during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The ad man’s idea was to portray Jackson as being able to do just about anything. Jackson went ahead and proved him right.

 

Bo Jackson was an ideal spokesperson for Nike's new line of cross-training sneakers. The Auburn University graduate was making waves as a rare two-sport pro athlete; he was playing baseball for the Kansas City Royals and football for the Los Angeles Raiders. Early commercials featured Jackson sampling other sporting activities like riding a bike. “Now, when’s that Tour de France?” he asked. In another, he dunked a basketball and pondered the potential of “Air Bo.”

At a Portland bar near Nike’s headquarters one evening, Nike vice president of marketing Tom Clarke and Jim Riswold of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy were how best to use Jackson going forward. Clarke wanted to devote the majority of their budget for the cross-trainers to an ad campaign featuring the athlete. The two started lobbing ideas about other people named Bo—Bo Derek, Beau Brummell, Little Bo Peep, and Bo Diddley, among others.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。 The last one stuck with Riswold. He thought of a phrase—“Bo, you don’t know Diddley”—and went home to sleep on it. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to sketch out an entire commercial premise in minutes. Riswold envisioned a spot in which Jackson would try his hand at other sports, punctuating each with a “Bo Knows” proclamation. Jackson soon realizes the one thing he can’t do is play guitar with Bo Diddley, the legendary musician.

It took longer to shoot the commercial than to conceive of it. The spot was shot over the course of a month, with the crew going to California, Florida, and Kansas to film cameos with other athletes including Jordan, McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky—all of whom Nike had under personal appearance contracts.

Fearing Jackson might hurt himself trying to skate, the production filmed him from the knees up sliding around in socks at a University of Kansas gymnasium rather than on ice. But not all attempts at caution were successful. When director Joe Pytka grew frustrated that Jackson kept running off-camera and implored him to move in a straight line, Jackson steamrolled both the equipment and Pytka, who had to tend to a bloody nose before continuing.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。In portraying any other athlete this way, the campaign may have come off as stretching credulity. But Jackson had already been his game in all areas, hitting a 515-foot home run during a spring training win over the Boston Red Sox. In April, he hit .282 and tallied eight home runs. Even when he struck out, he still stood out: Jackson was prone to breaking his bat over his knee in frustration.

 

After Jackson was voted into the 1989 MLB All-Star Game in July, Nike decided the telecast would be the ideal place to debut their Bo Knows campaign. They handed out Bo Knows pennants for fans and even flew Bo Knows signs overhead. Bo Knows appeared in a full-page spot for USA Today全天幸运飞艇数据网页。. Even by Nike standards, this was big.

There was, of course, a chance Jackson would be in a bat-breaking mood, which might diminish the commercial’s impact. But in the very first inning, Jackson sent one into the stands off pitcher Rick Reuschel. With a little scrambling, Nike was able to get their ad moved up from the fourth inning, where it was originally scheduled to run. In the broadcast booth, announcer Vin Scully and special guest, former president Ronald Reagan全天幸运飞艇数据网页。, marveled at Jackson’s prowess. Scully reminded viewers that his pro football career was something Jackson once described as a “hobby.”

A Bo Jackson fan is pictured holding up a 'Bo Knows Baseball!' sign at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989
A Bo Jackson fan shows his support at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. That summer and into the fall, Bo Knows was quickly moving up the ranks of the most pervasive commercial spots in memory, second only to Jordan’s memorable ads for Nike and McDonald’s. Jackson turned up in sequels, trying his hand at everything from surfing to soccer to cricket. Special effects artists created Bo Jacksons, a seemingly supernatural explanation for why he excelled at everything.

It was a myth, but one rooted in reality. After 92 wins with the Royals as a left-fielder in 1989, Jackson reported for the NFL season that fall as a running back for the Raiders. In one three-game stretch, he ran for over 100 yards each. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in November, Jackson ran 92 yards for a touchdown. He finished the season with 950 rushing yards. That winter, he was named to the Pro Bowl, making him the only athlete to appear in two all-star games for two major North American sports in consecutive seasons.

Nike was staggered by the results of Bo Knows, which helped them leap over Reebok to become the top athletic shoe company. They eventually secured 80 percent of the cross-training shoe market, going from $40 million in sales to $400 million, a feat that executives attributed in large part to Jackson. Bo Knows, bolstered by Jackson’s demonstrated versatility, was the perfect marriage of concept and talent. His stature as a spokesperson rose, and he in spots for AT&T and Mountain Dew Sport, earning a reported $2 million a year for endorsements. A viewer survey named him the most persuasive athlete in advertising. If that weren’t enough, Jackson also appeared in the popular Nintendo Entertainment System game Tecmo Bowl and on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1989.

 

In 1991, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury during a Raiders game, one that permanently derailed his football career. He played three more seasons of baseball with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels before retiring from sports in 1994.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。Jackson's relationship with Nike was dissolved soon after, though the company never totally abandoned the concept of athletes wading into new territory. In 2004, a campaign big names sampling other activities. Tennis great Andre Agassi suited up for the Boston Red Sox; cyclist Lance Armstrong was seen boxing; Serena Williams played beach volleyball. The Bo Knows DNA ran throughout.

Jackson still makes periodic references to the campaign, including in advertisements for his Bo Jackson Signature Foods. (“Bo Knows Meat,” the proclaims.) In 2019, Jackson also in a Sprint commercial that aimed for surrealism, with Jackson holding a mermaid playing a keytar and having a robot intone that “Bo does know” something about cell phone carriers.

全天幸运飞艇数据网页。The other key Bo—Diddley—never quite understood why the campaign worked. After seeing the commercial, he reportedly said that he was confused because it had nothing to do with shoes.

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