A pair of researchers from 2AI Labs have developed a wearable eyeglass device that effectively cures red-green color blindness. Called O2Amps, the technology works by leveraging our capacity to see the amount of oxygen in another person’s blood by simply looking at the hue of their skin. Developer Mark Changizi came up with the unorthodox idea after considering the evolutionary underpinnings of color vision. His unique theory eventually led to the development of eyeglasses that enable wearers to perceive emotions and social cues more clearly — and, by unintended consequence, to solve the colorblindness problem. We contacted Changizi to learn more.

One of the more fascinating aspects to this breakthrough is how it came about. Changizi, author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man, has a long history of investigating the various ways humans think, feel, and see. He has posited original insights as to why letters are shaped they way they are, how language emerged, and recently, why humans and other primates have color vision.

The ‘Color Vision Is for Sensing Emotions and States’ Theory
“Most mammals — your dog, horse, bunny — have two dimensions of color,” he told io9, “a yellow-blue dimension, and a grayscale (or brightness) dimension. Some of us primates, however, have an extra dimension of color vision: The red-green dimension.”

The going theory, says Changizi, is that color vision evolved to help primates find fruits in the forests. The trouble with this idea, however, is that primate diets are widely variable among those who have the same kind of three-dimensional color vision that we have — and yet we all have the same variety of color vision.

Read more at io9.

Published On: February 7, 2013

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