x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Glasses to help you see the colours of the rainbow

The Life: Dr Mark Changizi and Dr Timothy Barber, friends and founders of 2AI Labs in Boise, Idaho, have designed glasses to correct the the wearer's colour blindness.

Full spectrum vision: glasses have been invented that allow colour-blind people to see red and green. Ron Dahlquist / Getty Images
Full spectrum vision: glasses have been invented that allow colour-blind people to see red and green. Ron Dahlquist / Getty Images

Scientists have invented glasses that correct colour blindness.

 

These sound like high-tech specs. What's the story?

Dr Mark Changizi and Dr Timothy Barber, friends and founders of 2AI Labs in Boise, Idaho, designed the glasses to enhance the wearer's ability to see oxygenated blood.

They thought this would help doctors spot veins and bruises more easily. But it turns out the filters in the glasses concentrate their effects around the wavelengths where red-green colour-blind people have difficulties. It's mostly men who suffer from this condition - one in 10 in fact. Women are rarely afflicted.

 

Do they work?

Daniel Bor, a colour-blind neuroscientist at the University of Sussex, tried out the glasses by taking the Ishihara test for red-green colour-blindness. He passed with, um, flying colours. However, it seems that the glasses make it more difficult to perceive yellows and blue.

"My daughter's baby monitor has some yellow lights on it and I couldn't see them at all," he told The Times. This means people driving should not wear the specs.

 

I understand Dr Changizi has a new theory of why primates see colours?

Yes. The old theory is that colour vision evolved to help primates see fruits in the forests. The problem with this is that the diets of primates with the same colour vision vary widely.

Dr Changizi's theory is that colour vision evolved to help primates see changes in blood levels - ie blushing - and help interpret others' emotional state and health.

In this case, the primates with colour vision would be the ones with naked spots on faces and rumps, for example. This turns out to hold true.

 

Are these glasses available on the market yet?

They are on sale for US$279 (Dh1,024).

 

lgutcher@thenational.ae