February 24, 2008

Build Your Own Ganzfeld Goggles

The Ganzfeld effect is a form of perceptual deprivation, wherein one artificially makes one or more sensory inputs (seeing, hearing, etc.) into a uniform “mass” lacking any structure. The brain interprets this lack of signal in a rather interesting way.

To experiment with the Ganzfeld effect, you need to create a suitable Ganzfeld (or several Ganzfelds if you aim for multi-modal Ganzfeld). One way to make a visual Ganzfeld is to use so-called “Ganzfeld goggles” and a bright light.

To build Ganzfeld goggles, you need:

  • ping-pong balls
  • some sandpaper
  • a sharp knife (for example a mat-cutting knife)
  • a pencil
  • about half an hour of time

The idea is to take this little thing:

Close-up picture of a ping-pong ball

…and turn it into two things which look something like this:

Cut and sandpapered halves of a ping-pong ball

Before You Begin…

Some tools and material are needed, so make sure you have them before you start. In the picture below, from left to right, there are 1. the ping-pong balls (blue box), 2. a pencil, 3. some painter’s tape (which was not used), 4. sandpaper, and 5. a sharp knife.

The tools used to make the goggles: balls, pencil, painter’s tape, sandpaper and a sharp knife

The sandpaper should be quite fine-grained. Here FEPA P-Grade of P150 was used. You don’t need a lot of sandpaper, only a piece.

Before you begin, make sure to be careful when cutting the ping-pong balls - they can be difficult to cut and the plastic can give in at the most unexpected moment. There is a concrete risk of cutting yourself.

Cut the Ping-Pong Balls in Two

First thing to do is to cut the ball in half. The seam is probably the best place to cut, although I did not do so when cutting the ball shown in the image. In any case, try to make as straight and even cut as you can.

Halves of a ping-pong ball

Notice also how the edge is very, very rough and consequently somewhat sharp. You do not want to place anything so sharp near your eyes, so later any sharp and rough bits will be sandpapered away.

Make a Curvature for the Eye Socket

Next thing to do is accommodate for the curvature of the eye socket. For this you need to draw, with the pencil, a curve similar to the one shown in this picture:

Curvature for the eye socket

The curvature does not need to be exact.

Next, you need to cut the curve with the knife. It’s best to try to make small cuts, as if carving an object out of wood. After trashing two ball-halves, I noticed that the cuts are good and small enough when you’re getting small, curly scrap (as displayed in the following picture).

Scraps of plastic

After you’ve cut the curvature, sandpaper out any rough edges. At this point you can also sandpaper out the logo from the balls, and any remnants of pencil markings.

What you have then should be a fully white egg-shell like hemisphere, which fits snugly into your eye socket without letting light in from the edges.

Try it Out

Now you’re all set for a multi-modal Ganzfeld experiment. Find a nice spot to sit or lie down. Set up a bright lamp so that it will shine on your face, or do this facing the Sun.

When you have your eyes open, you should see just a white “nothingness”.

This is the Ganzfeld for overloading your visual inputs. Load an MP3 player with suitable white, brown or pink noise - this will be used to overload your aural inputs. Put on the earphones, put on your brand new goggles, and enjoy experimenting with a multimodal Ganzfeld effect!


The title picture is by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.