Glasses That Can Reverse “Health-Blindness”
If you’re red-green colorblind, then chances are you see nothing, or close to nothing, within the left Ishihara test circle above (you can test yourself here). The image on the right? That’s red-green colorblindness effectively cured with just an inexpensive special pair of glasses.
This type of colorblindness, more common in males than females, results from a deficiency in either the red or green color receptors in the retina, the genes for which are on the X chromosome (hence the higher occurrence in males). If you’re a medical professional, this can be a dangerous condition. This is something that Mark Changizi calls “health-blindness”.
Changizi theorizes that our color vision, particularly our ability to discern reds (something your dog can’t do well), evolved so we could detect health, vigor, and emotions in our fellow primates. Oxygenated hemoglobin happens to reflect red light in wavelengths that fall precisely where our red receptors are most sensitive.
A doctor’s eyes are his or her most powerful tools. Red-green deficient medical personnel are less able to detect conditions like jaundice and low blood oxygenation because they simply don’t have access to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that they need.
Not any more, it seems. Changizi’s 2ai labs has developed a special lens, called Oxy-Iso, that shifts those wavelengths into the visible. This wasn’t something they set out to do, but colorblind people who tested some of their vision-enhancing technology reported that there was something unexpected going on. While wearing the glasses, which don’t have any active electronics, they report being able to see what was previously invisible to them: pink skin and red blood.
In case you missed that part, these glasses open up an invisible part of the spectrum to colorblind people, and that could save lives. That’s amazing! Science is mighty stuff, eh?