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Colorful glasses spot veins and correct color blindness

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Last summer, 2AI Labs unveiled three pairs of glasses called O2Amps that basically allow you to read through people’s skin to see their veins – helping you better perceive various emotions and physiological signals.

As it turns out, these same glasses can enhance our ability to see reds and greens. The filters that help visualize blood oxygen levels under the skin also concentrate their effects around the wavelengths where red-green color blind people are deficient, New Scientist explains.

According to 2AI co-founder Mark Changizi, our color vision came about to help us detect social cues from others of our own primate kind, “to sense the blushes and other signals we display on our faces, rumps and genitalia."

The three types of lenses (pictured) all enhance visibility of blood under the skin. Specifically:

  • Oxy-Amp: enhances visibility of blood oxygen level (the centerpiece of their tech).
  • Hemo-Iso: contrasts between ordinary tissue and tissue lacking blood -- but at the expense of seeing variations in oxygenation (the trauma detector).
  • Oxy-Iso: finds signs of oxygen deprivation and vessels that are otherwise difficult to see -- but at the expense of seeing the variations in the concentration of blood (the vein finder).

"It's this last one -- the Oxy-Iso -- that provides the benefits to colorblind people," Changizi told io9. "We weren't too surprised, because it ‘brute-force amplifies' the oxygenation signal -- and does so at the expense of the other dimension -- exactly the dimension that red-green deficient colorblind folk can't see."

Last November, the team distributed them to see if they would help. Wearing the Oxy-Iso lenses, they’ve aced the Ishihara test for red-green color blindness (pictured) – but didn’t do so well on tests that focus on the entire color spectrum. And the reds and greens are amplified at the expense of yellows and blues.

The device can be used in the form of prescription eyewear and sunwear, or in the form of filters in front of lamps to bath the room in the blood-amplifying light.

[Via SciAmv, io9, New Scientist]

Image: O2Amps by 2AI Labs & Ishihara test via Wikimedia

— By on February 8, 2013, 7:44 AM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure