I can draw a box

As long as it isn’t too complicated and you don’t expect much detail or fidelity to a model.

So watch this guy. He can draw Rome.

(via Noggin Bloggin’)

(Also on Sb)


  1. says

    He’s been pretty well known in Britain since he was a small boy.

    A remarkable talent – the sort of thing that cab give people the idea that autistic people tend to be savants of some sort, but the sad truth is that people like him and Temple Grandin are the exception rather than the rule.

  2. mike says

    Met a kid while in the hospital when I was young. He was about my age, 13, and he said he’d a photographic memory. We were waiting for a class(had to do school, still) and I spotted a map on the wall of our city which was a detailed street map and river valley, parks, and the like. I asked if he draw it, he looked at it closely for about 30sec, and he said yes. Then we where let into class.
    After an hour we got out. I thought he’d been doing school work and asked when he would draw. Said he already started and showed my he’d drawn a part of the map equal in size to his sheet. It was almost identical in size and miniscule detail, even the typeface of the tiny street numbers and different labels and headings around and through that part of the map.
    It’s still about the most vivid memory I have of in my life, it was amazing.
    I wouldn’t doubt he might be able to do something like this vid shows, but then he was dealing in 2D, much, much easier, I guess!

    Me? I can look at a license place for a minute and later visualize it a bit, but not draw it!

  3. brazenlucidity says

    I should play this for my Intro to Drawing classes on the first day, just to demoralize them even more.

  4. goatsonfire says

    I’d be interested to see where he was looking during the flyover. Isn’t there some sort of apparatus that can record what you are looking at with a dot where your eyes are focused? He can’t have looked directly at every detail that he drew, but I wonder how close the focus of his vision came to each detail. On top of being able to remember what he sees, can he discern detail out of his peripheral vision better than the rest of us?

  5. Therrin says

    Hey PZ, since it hasn’t been mentioned in this thread yet, I thought you should know that the ads on th–

    What? Someone told you already?

    Nevermind then.

  6. Pierce R. Butler says

    Stephen Wiltshire has the unfair advantage of living in an evil socialist nation which provides health care as needed to all citizens.

    His American counterpart is sitting in a corner somewhere, waiting for a scanty dinner and lights-out, perhaps doped to the gills, still vainly asking for “pencil” and “paper”.

  7. H. Hovdan says

    I have seen his guy once when he drew a similar picture of London. The thing that struck me as really odd was that he drew the picture antisymmetrically. If he saw a tower clock at 11 o’clock, he would draw it as showing 1 o’clock. The brain is a really weird thing.

  8. McCthulhu awaits the return of the 2000 foot Frank Zappa says

    As the brain gets better and better understood, and if the futurists are correct with their technology assertions, I wonder if Stephen’s ability would ever be able to be transferred to a ‘normal’ person without affecting their cognitive skills. If science ever finds a means of remapping brain sections there could be people that remember enormous amounts of information without the disadvantages of autism. It would make course finals an automatically guaranteed 100% mark. People would be walking wikis.

    That’s supposing that the recent things I have read that we’ve reached some sort of maximum, due to the body’s brain energy to size ratio, aren’t true.

  9. Skeptic's Response says

    As a skeptic, this seems remarkably like testing a psychic – except this guy performs!

  10. Nonskelectic says

    I’d like to see The Amazing Randi test this guy. Randi chooses the city, Wiltshire doesn’t know which until the last minute. After the helicopter tour, Randi chooses the point of view. Bet he’d fail.

  11. chigau (...---...) says

    Test what?
    Fail what?
    He and his folks don’t claim impossible powers just extraordinary ability.

  12. IanKoro says

    I first heard of this guy in An Anthropologist on Mars, by Oliver Sacks (it’s pretty similar to his better known book, The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a collection of case studies of interesting psychological oddities).

    Stephen was pretty young when it was written… check it out.

  13. cody says

    Have you guys seen the people with “superior autobiographical” memories? (Hyperthymesia.) Plenty of them seem perfectly ordinary (though then again, so does plenty of the functioning end of the autism spectrum), but they are able to recite virtually their entire lives in perfect recall. Marilu Henner is one of them.

    I get really annoyed at that “we only use 10%” myth—I’ve had people say that to me who also argue that we don’t understand the brain, but they don’t seem to understand those two beliefs are inconsistent with one another.

  14. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    If you can draw a circle you can draw a cow.

    Ah, but only if you first imagine a perfectly spherical cow.

  15. theophontes , flambeau du communisme says

    Assume a perfectly spherical chicken in a vacuum which, for the sake of this argument, we may call “cow”….

  16. Bernard Bumner says

    I’d like to see The Amazing Randi test this guy. Randi chooses the city, Wiltshire doesn’t know which until the last minute. After the helicopter tour, Randi chooses the point of view. Bet he’d fail.

    Fail what, exactly? Would this feat be much less remarkable if it turned out that he actually researched the subject beforehand?

    As others have said, this man has been featured on British tv since he was a boy, and I seem to remember him drawing London on a live programme. Would it matter whether he had spent days memorizing the view? He still produced an incredibly detailed drawing from memory. It is still a remarkable talent.

    I don’t think anyone is claiming that he has supernatural or superhuman powers, merely that he has an extremely unusual ability to recall detail. I don’t believe that he claims to able to draw any new place from a given viewpoint, on demand, so your – er – test doesn’t really demonstrate anything.

  17. Hairy Chris says

    The guy is a legend over here… Someone with a lot of problems who had a talent that was properly nurtured.
    And as for “fail”ing anything, dude, have you seen his work? Even if he did “cheat” he’s better at cityscape drawing then pretty much anyone else on the face of the planet. He manages to put insane detail into works that don’t lose their overall form. Incredible. And he’s musically gifted too – a savant in multiple disciplines. The guy’s amazing, full stop!