/ Kelly Kittell / 5 am Fri, May 9 2014
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  • Color for the Colorblind

    Color for the Colorblind

    Kelly Kittell's EnChroma CX Receptor colorblind-correcting sunglasses arrived with the following warning: When first trying on the lens, the unusual appearance of colors may be visually distracting. "It’s a bit of an understatement. The first time I saw brick red I was so overwhelmed I stopped cold. Purple and lavender, where have you been all my life?"

    My EnChromas aren’t sexy looking and they were early-adopter expensive. They came with a carrying sack, cleaning cloth, and an instruction manual. The manual starts with a number of grim imperatives, like don’t touch the special lens, and one that most certainly will be ignored: “Removing the eyewear, even momentarily, will tend to reduce the effectiveness of the color enhancement.” You won't be able to stop yourself from peeking under the glasses over and over again to verify your favorite gray sweater is actually a dusty rose. It is.

    They only work outdoors on a sunny day, and it takes about 10 minutes for your brain to start processing the colors. The lenses are 100% UV and scratch-resistant, and work by reshaping the spectrum light coming into your eyes. Enchroma also says the glasses come with Digital Color Boost, which, it turns out, is not a laundry additive, but an amplifier of the color signal coming to the brain. Science, bitch!

    Unexpectedly, the glasses make me a safer driver. Colorblind people react significantly slower to red signals, and there are a number of countries where we can’t get drivers licenses. With my Enchroma sunglasses, I can see the three distinct colors of a stoplight for the first time, and red stop signs and lit brake lights jump out with a new urgency. You'd think insurance companies would be all over this, but not so much.

    I wouldn’t say the glasses are life changing, but they certainly do enhance it. Since I've started wearing the glasses, I've been carrying a small card showing the colors I see versus normal vision:

    When someone asks about my colorblindness, this answers the inevitable question, "Well, what colors do you see?" It's like having a Ripley's Believe It or Not exhibit in your wallet -- people gasp when they see it.

    Enchroma’s glasses prices have come down considerably and they have a lot more styles since I got mine. They all come with a month trial period, and even if you don’t end up buying them, you’ll still have a month’s worth of candy-colored memories.

    EnChroma glasses: $380-$440

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    Notable Replies

    1. As someone who is colorblind, how do I know I can trust someone when they tell me what I'm seeing now is red when my concept of red itself is impaired by a lifelong inability to properly see it? If you say, "now when you put these on and you see brick red you'll really see brick red." You could totally be screwing with me.

      Actually, this looks awesome. And I really want to try these out just for the experience of being able to see the differences between certain colors. Like he said in the article about where has purple been all his life...purple is the color I've always wanted to see because I simply don't get it. Plus, with those glasses, I could tell why the hell everyone gets so damn excited about all the red and green at Christmas. The festiveness of the color combination has been very confusing for my poor cone-disabled eyes.

      That comparison chart is amazing. I need to get one of those. Actually, I wish I had one when I was a kid so that other kids would have stopped holding up crayons saying, "What color is this?" Yes, I can see yellow. No I can't see red, but I can still read it when you hold it up and the damn color is printed on the side. I'm color blind, not stupid.

    2. Kind of

    3. What if you're not color blind? What would wearing them do?

    4. You'll briefly see into the x-ray band, get a brief but intensely throbbing headache, and - for the following three days - have the feeling that you are being watched by someone forever on the edge of your vision.

    5. I sort of expected a more sciency post from Boing Boing.

      How something like this works is a lot more interesting than simply that it exists.

      "Reshaping the spectrum light coming into your eyes" is a little vague, when what's actually happening here is pretty cool and worth talking about.

    Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

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