I live in the UK. Half my time is spent running events for people who make videogames, the rest i...

A Looty is a device that allows each of your eyes to gaze into the other. They were originally made by Jim Woodring, who stopped making them because he thought the effect was probably bad:

"I made machines and gadgets, devices to explore with. Stupid things. Like the Looty, which enables your eyes to stare directly into each other. It's a bad invention... I made a few to sell and then stopped because the effect is unnatural and probably harmful."

Oho! My sense of danger was piqued. I made quick stop to look at the original advert for it in the back of the <s>The Frank Book</s> (<-- don't know where I saw this ad, but I did. And now it's disappeared...), grabbed some likely materials and began.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Alas, there are no pictures of the original online, but Jim's drawing makes it appear to be a beautiful affair in wood, with proper eye pieces. I went for a less refined version in cardboard. I'll try to be scant on the specifics of hacking up my particular box, and focus on the technical issues instead.

A box, roughly as wide as a human head, preferably a bit narrower.
Thin cardboard (Mine was sourced from a cereal box)
Greaseproof paper (To diffuse light)
Small, thin mirror
General purpose glue

Steel rule
Craft knife
Glass cutter
Side cutters (Not shown)
CD marker pen (Not shown)

Step 2: Prep Box

Here's the box. I loved the graphics as soon as I saw it, and had been wanting to make it into something for a long time. It was well constructed enough that only one seam was glued, and I decided to leave it that way rather than break it down further.

Whatever you use, I suggest recording all the internal measurements to save time as you build.

Step 3: Assemble Mirrors

Each mirror was aligned 45 degrees relative to the sides of the box.

Using the internal measurements of the box and a bit of trig, I marked out suitably sized sections of mirror with the CD marker then cut them with a straight edge and glass cutter.

This was the first time I cut glass, so I ended up with slightly rough edges. As long as the glass is scored by the cutter, you can carefully nibble any extra glass off with some pincers or side cutters.

I backed each mirror with a triangular column. These were made from strips of cereal box with a tab at one end for gluing, scored and folded on the correct lines.

The columns alone were a bit flimsy, so I made some reinforcements to keep the right angles steady. I cut small squares of card then marked and scored the diagonals. A line from the centre to one corner was cut on each, then folded and glued to form a three sided pyramid.

The pyramids were fixed into the ends of the mirror columns, glued sides facing out into the open to ensure maximum squareness.

Finally, I glued the mirror columns to an old bit of tile to keep them correctly aligned relative to each other.

Step 4: Cut and Fill Box

Using a shot glass, I marked eyeholes and cut them. Between, I also cut a trapezoid shape with concave sides to accomodate noses.

An initial test with the mirrors showed they needed to be much closer to the eyeholes than I expected, so I cut a strip of card with tabs on the sides, which filled nearly 1/2 the box when folded and glued in place.

I also decided I didn't like the hole in the top, so covered it from beneath with a conveniently fitting picture of a bug glued to a panel of cereal box card. That's shown here in a dry run, but was later glued in place.

Step 5: Lighting

My initial thoughts on lighting the inside of the box had been to use the hole in the top, but it bothered me because the light was uneven. My second idea was to cut panels in the sides, but I thought it would be a shame to destroy the kitschy O'Band graphics, and with the mirrors moved forward the panels would be tiny anyway.

So, I settled on cutting a window into the bottom of the box. Inserting the mirror section, I carefully marked and punctured the bottom of the box. Using the marks, I drew a curving outline on the underside and cut it out.

I rounded any squarish bits on the cuts between the eye holes and nose piece, and reinforced the nose piece with a strip of card.

I then cut a panel of card to correspond to the window with the plain face up, and a piece of grease proof paper to sandwich between the panel and the box. Once they were stuck in place, I glued the bottom of the nose piece on top of them. A window this shape on the bottom face of the box makes the innards more aesthetically interesting by creating a clover shape when the mirrors are installed.

Also, the tabs on the side panels of the box projected over the eye holes, so they were trimmed to fit.

Step 6: Tweaking

An initial dry assembly showed that the Looty just made a reversed stereoscopic image, which was dull.

Two quickly made and installed baffles, detailed in the images, cut the eyelines up and made a much more interesting effect. It now causes the user to appear as a crazed imp by reducing the distance between their reflected eyes. Much better :)

Step 7: Replenisher of Souls? or Their Undoing?

So here you have a completed Looty. No, actually I do. Mine.

The first time I got my eyes to move independently, it made me recoil.

Close one eye and you get to watch it open again with the other. Tilting or turning your head causes the mirror image to move the opposite way; it reflects you as other people actually see you, apart from the missing chunk of face between your eyes. Tilt the Looty 45 degrees and your reflection turns through 90. It also emphasizes differences in color perception.

It seems to be a source of brief amusement for anyone who picks it up. Yesterday, a guest turned it on its side and used it to inspect his nose hair.

After a short while though, looking into this thing begins to seem like some weird form of bi-polar narcissism.

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    48 Discussions


    3 years ago

    awesome idea !


    11 years ago on Introduction

    one time i had a pair of those wraparound sunglasses and when the light came in the side i could see my eyes reflected in the middle but they looked like one eye.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Would it be possible, if one were so inclined, to train each eye to look outward in almost the same fashion as a chameleon (except with forward facing eyes)? Or would that just give you the most intense eye strain headache ever?

    7 replies

    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Apparently, it's possible. I believe US helicopter gunship pilots are trained to move thier eyes independently when using the HUD in an Apache. How that's taught I have no idea, and whether or not a looty would be useful for doing it is completely unknown to me.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I call BS on that. Your eyes are slaved to each other. If you see very different things with each eye for any length of time, you get sore eyes and start to get serious eye fatigue. You can, however, train yourself to watch one eye then the other rapidly. Set up pool balls so you can find your blindspot, and be aware of it. Practise crossing your eyes. Get to work looking at autostereograms, stereograms and then try cheating at the "spot the difference" competitions. Learn to pull one eye as the one you are paying attention too, then switch for the other one. And learn to drive with one eye shut - the lack of depth perception makes it rather fun! Then switch eyes. :-) If you want to get really OTT, get some of the contacts that block the fovea centralis, so you cannot see anything out of the highest resolution part of your eye. After 10 seconds of that, you'll have a sore head. After ten minutes, you'll feel sick. After 10 days... You'll have the kind of perception that no-one outside "Heros" has. You can even get a set of mirrors and turn your world upside down. Your eyes actually show everything to your brain the wrong way up, but the brain learns to reverse it. After about 3 to 5 days, your brain will re-reverse things for you.

    Country dude_soapy_

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    you are right about the eye strain because i can move each eye independently inwards wille keeping the other one straight and i can cross my eyes


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    if you did get those contacts, what exactly would it do to your perception?


    yeah then when you take away the mirrors, everything would b upside down and if ur driving ur pretty f***ed! lol


    11 years ago on Introduction

    It's been a while since you posted this, and I thought you might want to see Jim Woodring's take on this instructable - in case you haven't already discovered it.

    I'm working on my own version in plywood (after reading his critique), but I'm having trouble with the mirror alignment. As you say, the "reversed reflection" isn't so thrilling. The "cyclops" image is more "dangerous" feeling to me. And won't different people have different space between the eyes? Does it need to be adjustable?

    Anybody know what you're supposed to see? I mean, besides the depths of one's soul...

    Knex Rules

    12 years ago on Introduction

    I can make my eyes roll back into my head without using my hands, it gives me a slight headache. I do so by looking up as far as I can and then very very slightly close my eye, it freaks everyone out!

    2 replies

    13 years ago

    I'd make one, but I'm afraid I'd end up with a lazy eye. >.>

    3 replies
    backlashAt Liberty

    Reply 13 years ago

    i have lazy eye, wonder what would happen if i made one and used it. hmm...


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Cool! But need a reference, size of the box (dimensions). Who know how to make a stereo photo viewer?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    wow! nice. i like it. its a pretty simple yet effective idea.