This week on We Live In The Future, scientists have created sunglasses that can actually correct colour blindness.
Well, mostly. The type of colour blindness the glasses correct is the most common; it occurs when the cone cells in your eyes (which detect light particles, photons) have too much crossover of detection of light in the wavelengths representing the red/green region of visible light. This is the cause of about 99% of red/green colour blindness.
Materials scientist Don McPherson was known for his research into eyewear for doctors who carry out laser surgery. These doctors must wear special PPE (personal protective equipment) to ensure that the light from the laser doesn’t harm their vision. The glasses absorb a lot of light, which makes colours appear saturated, and also happened to help the doctors see the difference between blood and tissue better during surgery. Then serendipity struck.
McPherson began to use the glasses as sunglasses, and at a Frisbee game gave them to his friend to borrow. The friend, Michael Angell, was colour blind, but the glasses were allowing him to differentiate between colours. He was seeing hues he had never seen before. It turned out that the glasses were absorbing wavelengths of light that reduced the amount of crossover between the red and green cone cells. This meant that the cells in the eye were better able to differentiate between the colours, and represent them with more colours than the colour blind eye is usually able. McPherson started to investigate further into colour blindness and eventually applied for funding to make the glasses on a larger scale.
With a lot of hard work and research, this became EnChroma, a company which specialises in these glasses. After making their first sales in late 2012, the company has been booming and is currently working to produce more products, including versions for children.
H/T Smithsonian, Tumblr