Glasses that solve colorblindness

by on August 18, 2013 at 5:13 pm in Science | Permalink

…I heard from another company that makes color-enhancing glasses — this time, specifically for red-green colorblind folks. The company’s called EnChroma, and the EnChroma Cx sunglasses are a heartbeat-skipping $600 a pair.

“Our lenses are specifically designed to address color blindness,” the company wrote to me, “and utilize a 100+ layer dielectric coating we engineered for this precise purpose by keeping the physiology of the eyes of colorblind people in mind.”

That is from David Pogue, there is more here.  For the pointer I thank Samir Varma.

1 Mark Thorson August 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm

Glasses for red-green colorblindness have been around since at least the early 20th century. They have one red lens and one green or blue lens. They show up on eBay now and then.

I have a pet theory that one of the forms of mild red-green colorblindness is caused by lack of an undiscovered far-red opsin. These people are recognizable as unable to see orange as a color distinct from yellow or red. If you look at the absorption peaks of the opsins, they form a periodic series that ends at the red-sensitive opsin. I predict there’s another opsin in the series beyond the known red opsin, and its cones will have a population distribution in the retina like the blue cones (i.e. almost none in the fovea).

2 william August 18, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Mark sez: “Glasses for red-green colorblindness have been around … They have one red lens and one green or blue lens”
Absolutely in agreement, what they do is they convert some colors into the appearance of lustre (which is when the intensity of light from one eye is different from the intensity in the other – it’s a 3D effect). Color-normal people can experience the same effect (which the misled journalist in your link seems to think is impossible).

But apart from the lustre effect, the entire linked article is bullshit. Color blindness (or as it is more accurately known, color deficiency) is a problem with the retina, and remains no matter how you filter the light reaching it. Charging $600 for a pair of spectacles that cost nowhere near that much to make is a galloping ripoff, and the people marketing it (and the journalists sucked in) should be ashamed of themselves.

Sorry guys – and it’s almost always guys who are color deficient – that $600 is better spent on something more effective.

3 bob August 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Sure, those lenses probably don’t fix anything. However, an active display could work around the limitations of a color blind retina. Sure, the retina can only see within a smaller spectrum, but the real problem is not perceptional differences, but the loss of important information.

So a solution could be something akin of how an mp3 produces audio that is ‘close enough’ to what the original audio was, but using less space. In essence, the design would be about removing subtle differences that a color blind person can perceive, but doesn’t really get much out of, in exchange of using that part of the spectrum to represent colors that the color blind retina can’t see. It’d be trading a major deficiency on a chunk of the spectrum for a small, across the board distortion of all colors. Writing an image processing filter that did this on a computer monitor would not be complicated. The problem today is that enhanced reality displays are either very small or very bulky: For something like this to be practical, we’d have to have the equivalent of Occulus Rift, but working on just plain glasses instead of the current form factor.

4 Tony August 19, 2013 at 9:04 pm

>Charging $600 for a pair of spectacles that cost nowhere near that much to make is a galloping ripoff

To be fair you have absolutely no idea how much it costs to put down an ultra-high resolution 100+ layer dielectric coating. Nobody does anything like that, so you can’t relate the price to any other glasses. Maybe we are stupid for bothering to pursue this when our solution is such an expensive one, but the product worked and we couldnt just not make them and see what happened.

>But apart from the lustre effect, the entire linked article is bullshit. (CVD).. is a problem with the retina, and remains no matter how you filter the light reaching it.

His experience was completely different from the lustre effect- it would in no way allow him to see a rainbow. You are attaching a valid criticism of sketchy “CVD Cures” that are little more than colored plastic to something you havent really investigated.

The brain expects the cones to report signal in certain ratios and creates color out of it- if you are color blind the peak sensitivities of your eyes are off. If you start with a saturated signal (the sun) accept that overall luminance will drop by putting a filter in front of it (ie make it in a sunglass form) you can get the ratios right by dropping signal in the right places and passing it in others. Nothing in nature has such a specific monochromatic color that you will miss that information.

5 vetr August 18, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I work hard for every dollar I earn but I would gladly pay six hundred bucks each to fix any of the various genetic, epigenetic (assuming such things exist), posttraumatic, and random biological deficiencies I live with, including having only three, rather than four, of what I think are called rod dimensions of color perception. Hence I am unable, without more information, to understand the adjective heartstopping in this post. On a larger field, I would write out here the copyright free first eleven lines of one of Drydens longest poems to set forth my dissatisfaction with my younger intellectual priorities (whose deficiencies were also, maybe, a result of random biological disappointments?) but this is not my blog, so here, to keep it short, are some phrases from the first eleven lines …”Reasons glimmering ray …was lent …. not to assure … doubtful way …but … guide …to a Better day …pale grows reason [at a better] Sight …so dissolves [in better] light” … (hat trick Harold Bloom, of all people, for the eleven lines being pointed out, page 245 of his Best Poems, 2004 edition, )

6 Chris S August 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

I would pay a nonzero amount of money for a pair of glasses that allowed me to understand this post.

7 Mark Thorson August 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I wouldn’t. There’s more than enough non-gibberish to exceed my available time.

8 cor ad cor loquitur August 19, 2013 at 11:47 pm

First sentence does three things – shows that writer is neither rich nor healthy, understands (or for rhetorical purposes claims to understand) first hand several medical issues ( for the epigenetics reference, consult Greg Cochran’s contrarian blog), and is interested in this subject because of the possibilities of better sight (the reference to four rods stems from the obscure fact that a very small percent of humanity have multiplicatively better color vision – four rods combined over three rods combined – than the rest of us). Anyone not sympathetic to that scenario can stop reading. Second sentence is a straightforward rest from the complicated first sentence and simply asks, why would a smart guy like TC use the word heartstopping here? The “On a larger field” sentence references the fact that this is someone else’s blog, and is an apology of sorts to the blog owner for “bloviating” on his bandwidth and a concession that, after all, this is a conversation among very few people, likely less than a couple dozen, all of them presumably strangers. So the On a larger field sentence is a dose of reality, and an implied apology, which is put there so that the next sentence, which is the only reason I spent five minutes yesterday writing the post, is not viewed in an unfavorably disposed light. The next sentence references and partially quotes what Harold Bloom, a favorite of TC, has called eleven wonderful lines of poetry ( or, in my words, eleven of the best English lines of poetry in the last 14 centuries), and it is possible that one or two of the few dozen people who read the comment recalled those lines of poetry, which begin Religio Medici, and for them those lines were “a word fitly spoken in season.” Two more quick references – “hat trick” was a hockey joke (referencing the number of lines quoted, as opposed to the expected “hat tip”) and “cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart, a Latin motto) means the very opposite of gibberish, while acknowledging the emotionally neutral possibility that words themselves don’t come across understandably (non semper verba loquuntur)

9 bluto August 18, 2013 at 10:31 pm

And loose my ability to “see” luminance so well? Count me out even if it worked.

10 Marc Roston August 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

In defense of Color-Challenged Americans:

Those who wish to correct us are deficient!

Colors are all relative. In my family growing up, my mother (yes, really!) is “color-blind”, so my two brothers and I are as well.

That left my father and sister in the minority. So, who was “right” about colors? It is pretty darn clear!

11 Erick August 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

I and one brother are partially red/green colorblind, meaning we can see a red stop sign or green grass but not “salmon” or “taupe” or other girly colors that guys aren’t supposed to acknowledge anyway. These are gray to me.

The linked article was well written and I sympathize closely with the author.

For what it is worth, I do have better night vision than anyone I have met. I do not think that I would give that up to be able to see rainbows more clearly.

12 Kurt K August 19, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I am color “blind” and I needed to pass a color test for my new job and Dr Azman made that possible. His color correction system is 100% guaranteed and he can make glasses and contacts!

13 Mark Thorson August 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Since your website is the company that sells them, you do understand that your testimonial carries no weight?

14 Sam Paris August 19, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Given 100+ layer coatings and (I assume) low volumes, $600 is not a bad price; coating chamber time is expensive. The price could come down if quantities go up.

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