How Tech Fights Color Blindness

 

**Still having hyperlink issues so apologies for any URLs**

I hope everyone enjoyed this year’s Boston Marathon, especially the seniors. It is by far the best day of the year regardless of the weather that is part of why Boston College is so special.

 

I was having a tough time deciding what my topic would be this week. I have always wanted to write one about how technology is improving the lives of people with some type of disability. My “aha!” moment was when my roommate saw an Instagram post that was a bunch of red and green dots where the green dots spelled out a word. He turned to me and said, “This is just a bunch of dots.” That’s when I remembered he is red-green color blind. About 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some type of color blindness with red-green being the most common. When I thought about disabilities and diseases, I thought of the most common like Alzheimer’s, Down Syndrome, etc. But for some reason color blindness never crossed my mind. I think it is because in our society it can be one of the more overlooked disabilities. Although it is not physically harmful in any way, the ability to see color properly is one of the beautiful things about life that those without this disability may take for granted. I hope that my blog will shed more light on this disability and the awesome work being done to help improve the lives of those with it.

Eye Sees Color

This depicts how the eye sees color.

I’m no science whizz, but what I gathered is that the retinal cone cells of color blind people respond to light differently than normal. Color blindness doesn’t literally mean completely color blind, but the disability causes color confusions and the inability to tell certain pairs of colors apart. For example, here is a depiction for those without color blindness that shows what it is like to have deutan-type (green-light cells affected) and protan-type (red-light cells) color blindness compared to what an image actually looks like.

Color Blind Visual.jpg

So how has technology helped combat this color vision deficiency?

 

EnChroma

EnChroma Glasses.png

Ray Bans or EnChroma glasses?

EnChroma is a glasses company that has designed stylish pairs of glasses with lenses that remove particular wavelengths of light where the overlap of colors is occurring for those with color blindness. These glasses give color blind people a chance to see colors properly (as this GIF shows).

EnChroma GIF

According to their website, EnChroma’s glasses can address 4 out of 5 cases of partial color blindness. You can actually take a test on their website to see if you are color blind (http://enchroma.com/test/instructions/).

The reason I remembered EnChroma when I thought of this topic is I saw some viral videos of people being surprised with EnChroma glasses and being able to see color for the first time. If you are emotional, get your tissues ready. The video will automatically start as this man is putting the glasses on, but the whole 5 minutes is worth the watch.

This is one of my favorite videos on YouTube, and it shows the joy EnChroma is bringing to those who once may have thought they would never see color properly.

 

Spectral Edge

In 2017, UK-based technology company Spectral Edge unveiled a new 4K Ultra HD version of its Eyeteq content accessibility technology at M-Enabling Summit in Washington D.C. This Eyeteq technology helps those that suffer from color blindness watch TV and see colors how they otherwise would not. The technology first worked for still images and progressed to this point where it works for the highest quality of video. This is an amazing advancement. To show you how difficult it can be to watch TV with color blindness, I’ll give you a fitting example. The Jets played the Bills in 2015 with their color rush uniforms on. If you are not familiar with color rush jerseys, they are basically all one color. The Jets’ jerseys were green, and the Bills’ jerseys were red. You see where I am going with this one…

Here is what the game looked like to most people.

Jets Color

And here is what the game looked like to a lot of people who are red-green color blind.

After hearing about this issue, I don’t take being able to enjoy a game without worrying about not being able to distinguish between two teams for granted (although, as a Jets fan, sometimes I don’t need color to realize the Jets are just the team that hasn’t scored a touchdown). Hopefully companies like EnChroma and Spectral Edge will make unfortunate situations like this a thing of the past.

 

Before I wrap up this blog, I wanted to share a story about our favorite person to talk about over the last couple of weeks—none other than Mark Zuckerberg. Did you know that Zuckerberg is red-green color blind? Why does that even matter? Well in an interview the man behind Facebook revealed that Facebook’s primary color is blue because, as he said, “…blue is the richest color for me—I can see all of blue.” So the next time you see Facebook’s logo, remember that if Mark Zuckerberg was not color blind or had EnChroma glasses back when he created Facebook, Facebook may have looked like this…

Facebook Green

Or this!

Facebook Red

 

 

 

Other Sources:

http://enchroma.com/technology/

www.digitaltvnews.net/?p=29314

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/20/the-face-of-facebook#ixzz1wN2i458f

 

 

10 comments

  1. JohnWalshFilms · ·

    Awesome article, Tully – a really interesting topic and appreciated the Zuckerberg and Jet’s game examples. I wonder if Apple might one-day invent a screen setting that would help people who are color blind – much like the night-shift setting you can select after 11pm. Did you happen to find anything about that in your research, or was it mostly glasses-focused technology?

    1. Tully Horne · ·

      I found it was mainly companies like the ones I talked about. I did not see any major companies working to accommodate color blindness. I think it goes back to the point that it’s something that’s overlooked by many.

  2. kkim312 · ·

    This is a really interesting post! Those who are not effected seem to compeltely forget about the struggles for others and their everyday challenges. These glasses can change so many people’s lives. I also think there should be an upgrade in technology for projectors. My friend is colorblind and sometimes cannot tell and interpret the differences in graphs and other charts shown on many Powerpoint slides. You showed some great examples. I never thought about how much of an impact being colorblind is on the little things such as a football game. As for @walshqh‘s comment, there is a setting on the IPhone already if you triple click the home button it will set the screen to a negative color setting.

  3. kennedy__bc · ·

    Tully I really liked this post mostly because it is a topic I have hardly ever thought about before. I have seen those YouTube videos of people receiving the enchroma glasses before and they are some of my favorites on YouTube. I never realized how emotionally tolling it could be to have to deal with that issue day after day. After browsing their website I was somewhat disheartened by their price point of anywhere from $350-$450, I hope in the future that with technological improvements that the price will be reduced. Since colorblindness affects so many people across the globe a low priced option of glasses would be extremely useful to people everywhere and would help to somewhat erratic this issue.

  4. Addison LeBeau · ·

    Great post Tully! I remember a few years ago as well when that video went viral, and it has always been in the back of my mind since then. I agree with you that this is a disability that often gets overlooked, despite how it can affect many people’s quality of life. I think you highlighted some really cool technology in the post, especially the EnChroma glasses! As someone interested in fashion, I personally appreciate how EnChroma makes an effort to design glasses that are stylish and can be worn in public. I think this helps take away the stigma of wearing glasses to assist with a disability (can you imagine wearing ugly, clunky glasses around all the time?) and puts the company on a great path forward!

  5. phanauer1 · ·

    Great post! I was interested to read this because I have heard of EnChroma glasses before and seen some of those videos so I’m glad to see that you included them in your post. I think this is amazing technology and will only continue to improve going forward. I think the future of this will be in contact lenses eventually rather than colorblind specific products and screens, though any innovations in this at this time are probably a step in the right direction. Also, as this technology becomes more commonplace, I think it will get significantly cheaper and more accessible so we can hopefully look forward to many more reaction videos in the future!

  6. Really great post. I had a student do a post on this subject a year or so back, and it’s nice to have it brought back up again for a new semester.

  7. Keenan Neff · ·

    I think that color blindness is one of those disabilities that gets completely forgotten about because it is not a visual disability. You can’t walk by someone and think, wow they must be color blind. I remember watching the color rush game last semester, and twitter started blowing up during the Jets-Bills game. When everyone started retweeting the video of what a red-green color blind person saw during the game, it was pretty eye-opening. The NFL has one of the largest audiences in all of sports. If 1 in 12 males have some sort of color blindness, that is a lot of NFL fans. Having this game be the primetime game also meant even more people would be watching it. This just goes to prove my point even further that people completely forget that being color-blind is a disability, and it affects so many people.
    As for companies creating products that help those who are diagnosed with color blindness, I applaud them. However, after reading @kennedybc‘s comment about how the glasses are marked up to $350-$400, I am pretty upset that these people with disabilities are being exploited for their money. For all I know, it could cost that much to develop and produce these special glasses. Another question that I had was what if someone who is colorblind purchases these glasses for $350 but they aren’t “cured” of their disability. Do they just have to eat the cost? I went on EnChroma’s website and you can actually try out their product for 60 days, and if it does not work than you are able to send it back for free. Like @tullyhornebc mentioned above, you can go on their website and take a test to see if you are indeed color blind. I think that even though the glasses may seem a bit pricy, EnChroma does do a lot to make sure that the customers are satisfied.

  8. Jobabes121 · ·

    Tully, this was a fabulous post. The video was so touching too, and it made me become emotional as I finished watching the video. As someone who is not colorblind, I have taken enjoying every beautiful color in life as granted, and it reminds me to be grateful for every bit of what I can experience in the world currently before I complain about the next struggle I have in my life. So I thank you for giving me that reminder.

    As many others have said, I also agree that wearing such large glasses with rather high price can be uncomfortable. I wonder if this technology can be implemented to real glasses with prescriptions with bad eyesight so that people do not have to worry about wearing 2 glasses at the same time. I hope that R&D has continued for the integration of the two already. I also wonder the possibility of integrating it into contact lens as well. Even though this can be further applied in classroom settings via projector or other presenting devices, it cannot be applied in enjoying the nature or landscape that the colorblind person from Youtube was mesmerized about. I hope the technology continues to develop so that the glasses can be more affordable for everyone and can be integrated into real glasses/contacts.

  9. bc_eagle1 · ·

    Finally an article without some fear and business good related. Technology is great. I know I was very thankful when lasik came out. Can make a world of difference to someone.

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