01.05.2017

Washington State Researchers Design Powerful Colour Detector Glasses

A group of American researchers have just created a pair of glasses designed to give users an amazing superpower. These new high-tech glasses have been designed to tell the difference between colours that look the same to our naked eyes.

The researchers responsible for these glasses come from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They say that their glasses allow users to see the difference between "metamers," which are colours that appear similar to the human eye but actually give off different wavelengths.

The main man behind these glasses is Professor Mikhail Kats, a teacher in the university's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. While Professor Kats was studying how our eyes' cone cells decipher short, medium, and long wavelengths, he wondered if a certain technology could actually make it possible to perceive colours with even stronger cone cells.

If Kats's idea sounds crazy to us, it's only because we know so little about the animal kingdom. You see, while humans have trichromatic vision (which means we all only have three colour channels) many animals have four colour channels (officially called tetrachromatic). The most common example of an animal with tetrachromatic vision is the goldfish. In addition to the red, green, and blue we humans can see, goldfish also perceive ultraviolet.

Professor Kats first developed a pair of glasses with two colour filters and a strip that blocked out our sense of the blue light spectrum. Since each eye got different spectral information from blue (short) wavelengths, the team found that their glasses helped people perceive differences between subtle colours with greater accuracy.

Numerous tests showed that Kats's glasses were able to help people correctly tell the difference between metamers. Everyone in Kats's studies couldn't see the differences between the metamers shown on smartphones or computer screens without the glasses on. However, everyone was able to clearly see the colour differences with the glasses on.

Professor Jay Neitz, who also researches colour vision at the University of Washington's Seattle campus, publicly praised Kats's invention. He told the press that these glasses could have real potential both for professional and personal use in the years to come.

In the recent past, Professor Neitz actually ran a few of his own experiments with colour filters. Unfortunately for Professor Neitz, most of his glasses proved cumbersome and uncomfortable for users.

Professor Kats believes his glasses proved more effective than Neitz's glasses because he used subtler filters. Also, Kats's glasses were only designed to distinguish metamers related to the short-wavelengths associated with bluish colours.

As for future plans, Kats says he is now working on a pair of glasses able to differentiate green (medium) wavelengths. Glasses dedicated to red (long) wavelengths may also be on the horizon.

A few uses for these glasses include checking for counterfeit money, picking out camouflaged uniforms or objects, and even analyzing fruits and veggies to see where they are most likely to spoil first. Kats also told reporters he would love to use these glasses to take in all the hues of a natural forest or botanical garden.


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