You might have seen it on social media, glasses that allow colour-blind people to see colour. But, how true is it? How common? How effective? What else is there?
While unharmful, colour blindness is cruel when it comes to managing every day’s living. People with colour blindness find it difficult to cook, night drive, distinguish media on screens, study and are even restricted from certain careers in the military, aviation etc.
Colour blindness, also known as colour vision deficiency is a group of conditions where one cannot perceive one or more forms of colour. Red-green colour deficiency is the most common form of colour blindness, usually inherited and affecting more males than females.
A normal retina holds several types of photoreceptors (cells) responsible for seeing colour, light and darkness. The cells responsible for perceiving both light and colour are called cones and further divided into 3 subtypes, each sensitive to different ranges of colour wavelength: blue, red and green. The cells overlap at certain points and this allows us to perceive different and subtle shades of colour. In colour blindness, one or more types of cones could be defective or missing altogether. In red-green deficiency, the red and green cones are defective, especially when they overlap.
This is what vision looks like for different types of colour blindness
What Technology Is Out There?
1. Enchroma Glasses: Tinted glasses with red-green filter.
Those glasses are made from a special, thinner than the normal type of glass, allowing the tinting dye to spread easily. Applying a filter will limit the confusion from the overlapping of cells and allow each photoreceptor responsible for seeing a certain colour to function.
The glasses are UV protected, come with scratch-resistant, anti-reflective and water repellent (for easy wiping) coating. Made in the USA and shipped internationally, they can be ordered with prescription and are available for various use indoor, outdoor and sports.
At the moment, Enchroma is the top leading filtered glass manufacturer. However, limitations still exist. Enchroma blocks light only in the wavelengths that are usually problematic to the patients. They are not customised to defective wavelength and are not selective in terms of colour enhancement. Instead, they recolour the whole view of the patient. In other words, Enchroma glasses can only enhance the contrast and improve the colour perception but they do not offer a normal colour vision experience
2. Colourmax Colour correction system:
Available in glasses and contact lenses, are designed uniquely to filter wavelength as per the patient’s colour deficiency type and severity. They are based in the USA and require a doctor’s consultation.
3. Smart Glasses or Optoelectronic Glasses:
Google glass, created in 2013 has smartphone like features including CPU, camera, microphone, display unit, and a touchpad. Google Glass can be controlled either by the touchpad mounted on the right side of the device or by head gestures and voice input. Contains application (chroma) that works on the basis of daltonization algorithms to shift colours from the confusion lines of the patients to colours which they can see.
In chroma glasses, the camera is used to capture the environment of the user, from his/her vision’s axis. The camera finds colours that are difficult to distinguish, and alternate these colours based on the different types of colour blindness and wavelengths affected. Smart glasses are still needing further research and are not yet launched in the market.
4. Display settings:
Microsoft, Apple and Google added a colour filter feature to Windows 10, IOS and Android in which users can alter the colour of the screen (windows and all programs) to enhance their colour perception
Practical Tips for Living With Colourblindness
- Play along with your screen display setting. You can adjust the filter for Red, Green and Blue light according to your liking. It may not correct colour blindness but may improve your visual experience a tad.
- Use applications: They can name colours for you, tell colours apart, A good app is colour blind app. Chromatic vision stimulator is an app that shows your friends and family how you see the world.
- Microsoft has tools for designing colour-blind-friendly PowerPoint slides.
- Try to set up a clothing system. Ask a friend to match up outfits and pack them together to avoid wearing mismatched outfits.
- Rely on timers and thermometers to tell if food is cooked through rather than colour.
- When grocery shopping, rely on smell and touch to check for ripened fruits and vegetables.
- Increase your lighting!