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The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Adding Color to a Color Blind World

Posted August 29, 2016 12:00 AM by Chelsey H

Are you color blind? Color blindness affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. A new pair of glasses is able to correct color blindness for millions of people.

Color blindness is a condition where a person’s eyes are unable to see colors under normal light. It’s hard for them to tell colors apart.

In the human eye, the retina is covered by millions of light sensitive cells, some shaped like rods and some shaped like cones. These receptors process the light into nerve impulses and pass them along to the cortex of the brain via the optic nerve. Rods transmit mostly black and white information, while cones transmit a higher level of light intensity to create the sensation of color and visual sharpness. Image Credit

There are several different versions of color blindness and it is commonly inherited genetically. Most people are not blind to color, but they have a reduced ability to see them. It’s caused by a damaged or abnormal ‘photopigment’ gene. The gene is carried on the X chromosome and it is responsible for controlling colors inside the eyes.

A person with red-green color blindness has more overlap between their red and green photopigments. The new glasses, created by the company EnChroma, found a way to alleviate this using a lens that can filter out specific colors. Image Credit

The lens was created by utilizing the latest research on the genetics of color blindness to make sophisticated computer models that simulated colors and the extent of color vision deficiency. The group was then able to design an optimal filter, targeting specific photopigments. The filtering cut out sharp wavelengths of light to enhance specific colors. EnChroma lenses separate the overlapping red and green cones, helping improve vision for people who have difficulty seeing reds and greens.

The lenses are available on the market and, if this video gives any indication, they can change a color blind person’s world.

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#1

Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/29/2016 1:10 PM

I find the moving triangle illustration really confusing. It looks like the wavelength of the green sensing cones is somehow displaced spectrally in color blind persons.

My understanding of red-green color blindness (that can be treated by these lenses) is that it is caused by reduction of the response of the red cones (protanomaly) or green cones (deuteranomaly).

http://www.colourblindawareness.org/colour-blindness/types-of-colour-blindness/

The proper relative response of the red and green cones is corrected by a specially constructed filter which restores the correct ratio. Because the red and green cone spectral response (L and M) is overlapping and closely spaced, this requires a precise optical filter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_vision

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#5
In reply to #1

Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/30/2016 12:24 AM

I guess that's why you or I don't work for EnChroma

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#2

Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/29/2016 1:49 PM

I had a psych professor in college who was colorblind -- all of his pants were a sort of dark grayish-greenish-blue and all his shirts were light blue, green, or white. So his clothes never clashed. Interestingly his colorblindness is what led him to study the psychology, more specifically, the psychology of perception. Gestalt theory was his major area concentration (so of course they had him teaching statistics -- which he did really well). He was an example of making lemonade when life gave you lemons.

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#3
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Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/29/2016 8:37 PM

Life tried giving me lemons once. I took those lemons and froze them then used them to break all the windows out of life's house at 2 AM.

Now life's a lot more cautious about what it gives me.

(Especially after that 'giving me a Banana' incident.)

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#4

Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/30/2016 12:21 AM

Not too sure what "bones" have got to do with red and green colours

"EnChroma lenses separate the overlapping red and green bones cones"

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Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/30/2016 9:04 AM

Color blindness is caused by an abnormality in the X chromosome that causes the retina to develop bones instead of cones.

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#7

Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/30/2016 11:51 AM

Here's a website with an app that helps colorblind people determine what colors are used on computer screens.

It's helps them figure out which line is which, on graphs that have colored lines, and so forth.

'What Color?'

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Re: Adding Color to a Color Blind World

08/30/2016 3:16 PM

Here is another free program for color blind folks:

Visolve is the software that transforms colors of the computer display into the discriminable colors for various people including people with color vision deficiency, commonly called color blindness. In addition to distinguishing colors and finding a specific color, it aims to help people with color blindness:

  • to guess a normal color, and
  • to feel the color gradations in natural scenery etc. by their visual information.

Visolve can execute the following three types of color transformation, filtering, and hatching:

  1. Red-Green transform -- transforms redder colors to brighter, and greener colors to darker,
  2. Blue-Yellow transform -- transforms bluer colors to brighter, and yellower colors to darker,
  3. Saturation increase -- increases the saturation of all colors,
  4. Filtering -- darkens all colors other than the specified color, and
  5. Hatching -- draws different hatch patterns depending on color.

Visolve

I would think you could use it with a cell phone camera to "correct" the colors in realtime...

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