An optical illusion creates the impression of a static image where in fact is only one row of fast spinning LED lights

Visual illusions for fashionable cyclists

Glasgow university students have created a LED light accessory for bicycles that can create sophisticated optical illusions.

The device consists of 48 three-colour LED lights attached to a single spoke of a bicycle. While spinning quickly around its axis as the biker pedals his bicycle, the LED light device, taking advantage of limitations of human vision, creates an illusion of a seemingly solid image in the middle of the wheel.

"The display takes advantage of the phenomenon of persistence of vision, which makes it possible to create the illusion of a solid circle in the middle of the wheel by rotating a single strip of lights very quickly," said Tim Drysdale, who oversaw the work of three Glasgow University students involved in the project.

“By changing the colour of the lights as they rotate, the circle can be made to display a chosen image."   

Ben Ferguson, David Millar and Jamie Nicol, who developed the device are all in the final year of their electronic and nanoscale engineering studies. They took inspiration from MonkeyLectric's revolutionary bike lighting systems, but expanded it to fill the whole wheel.

"The aim of these projects is to demonstrate all the skills they have learned during their degree, which includes a six month international industrial placement,” said Drysdale. “I was really delighted with the outcome - the students were very talented and they worked extremely hard to achieve this impressive result."   

The wheel will be on display at the university's upcoming student open days on 6 August, 3 September and 25 October. The public display version of the wheel, was built by electronics technician Andrew Phillips in 2014.   

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