It’s not often that a technology provides so much instant enjoyment, astonishment, shaking, even tears.
Tim Blair found a movie of a colorblind man seeing color for the first time. And there are lots of videos out there.
Know someone colorblind? Great Christmas Present (costs $350 USD plus).
People with red-green color blindness have red and green receptors that both react to an overlapping band of wavelengths producing shades of “brown”. I gather these glasses filter out the overlapping light so that the red receptors only react to red light and the green only to green.
(OK, so the first guy does “go on a bit” so watch then skip forward…)
Most people have three types of color-sensing cones in their eyes: red, green, and blue. The wavelengths of light that these three cones absorb have overlapping regions. Color-blindness is often a result of a malfunctioning cone that causes wavelengths to overlap even more, resulting in poor color discrimination. The EnChroma glasses use a filter to cut out these overlapping wavelengths, allowing for a clearer distinction between colors, especially red and green.
The invention was derived from the work of Don McPherson, who earned his PhD in glass science at Alfred University. McPherson was trying to design protective eye wear for doctors performing laser surgeries. It wasn’t until he let a friend try on the glasses during a game of ultimate Frisbee that he realized the technology’s true potential. McPherson’s friend just happened to be color-blind, and the glasses gave both of them a shock.
There are competitors – Color Max has a color blind test.
Perhaps these are well known in the US, but I’ve never heard of them. How absolutely cool.
Based in Berkeley, California, McPherson, who has a PhD in glass science from Alfred University, originally specialized in creating eyewear for doctors to use as protection during laser surgery. Rare earth iron embedded in the glasses absorbed a significant amount of light, enabling surgeons to not only stay safe, but also clearly differentiate between blood and tissue during procedures.
In fact, surgeons loved the glasses so much, they began disappearing from operating rooms. This was the first indication that they could be used outside the hospital. McPherson, too, began casually wearing them, as sunglasses. “Wearing them makes all colors look incredibly saturated,” he says. “It makes the world look really bright.”
It wasn’t until Angell borrowed his sunglasses at the Frisbee game, however, that McPherson realized they could serve a broader purpose and help those who are colorblind.