If it were up to academia, Changizi's story might have ended there. "I started out in math and physics, trying to understand the beauty in these fields," he says, "You are taught, or come to believe, that applying something useful is inherently not interesting."
Not only did Changizi manage to beat that impulse out of himself, but he and Tim Barber, a friend from middle school, teamed up several years ago to form a joint research institute. 2AI Labs allows the pair to focus on research into cognition and perception in humans and machines, and then to commercialize it. The most recent project? A pair of glasses with filters that just happen to cure colorblindness.
Changizi and Barber didn't set out to cure colorblindness. Changizi just put forth the idea that humans' ability to see colors evolved to detect oxygenation and hemoglobin changes in the skin so they could tell if someone was scared, uncomfortable or unhealthy. "We as humans blush and blanche, regardless of overall skin tone," Barber explains, "We associate color with emotion. People turn purple with anger in every culture." Once Changizi fully understood the connection between color vision and blood physiology, Changizi determined it would be possible to build filters that aimed to enhance the ability to see those subtle changes by making veins more or less distinct--by sharpening the ability to see the red-green or blue-yellow parts of the spectrum. He and Barber then began the process of patenting their invention.
When they started thinking about commercial applications, Changizi and Barber both admit their minds went straight to television cameras. Changizi was fascinated by the possibilities of infusing an already-enhanced HDTV experience with the capacity to see colors even more clearly.
"We looked into cameras photo receptors and decided that producing a filter for a camera would be too difficult and expensive," Barber says. The easiest possible approach was not electronic at all, he says. Instead, they worked to develop a lens that adjusts the color signal that hits the human eye and the O2Amp was born.
The patented lens technology simply perfects what the eye does naturally: it read the changes in skin tone brought on by a flush, bruise, or blanch. The filters can be used in a range of products from indoor lighting (especially for hospital trauma centers) to windows, to perhaps eventually face cream. For now, one of the most promising applications is in glasses that correct colorblindness.
As a veteran entrepreneur, founding Clickbank and Keynetics among other ventures, Barber wasn't interested in chasing the perfect color filter for a demo pair of glasses. "If you look for perfection you could spend a million dollars. And it is just a waste of time," he says. A bunch of prototypes were created, and rejected. Some were too shiny, others too iridescent. "We finally found something that worked to get the tone spectrum we wanted and to produce a more interesting view of the world."
What they got was about 90 percent of the way to total color enhancement across three different types of lenses: Oxy-Iso, Hemo-Iso, and Oxy-Amp. While the Amp, which boosts the wearer's general perception of blood oxygenation under the skin (your own vision, but better), is the centerpiece of the technology, it was the Oxy-Iso, the lens that isolates and enhances the red-green part of the spectrum, that generated some unexpected feedback from users. Changizi says the testers told them that the Oxy-Iso lens appeared to "cure" their colorblindness.
Changizi knew this was a possibility, as the filter concentrates enhancement exactly where red-green colorblind people have a block. Professor Daniel Bor, a red-green colorblind neuroscientist at the University of Sussex tried them and was practically giddy with the results. Changizi published Bor's testimony on his blog: "When I first put one of them on [the Oxy-Iso,], I got a shiver of excitement at how vibrant and red lips, clothes and other objects around me seemed. I've just done a quick 8 plate Ishihara colour blindness test. I scored 0/8 without the specs (so obviously colour blind), but 8/8 with them on (normal colour vision)!"
Despite these early testimonials, the pair thought that the O2Amp glasses would be primarily picked up by hospitals. The Hemo-Iso filter enhances variations along the yellow-blue dimension, which makes it easier for healthcare providers to see veins. "It's a little scary to think about people drawing blood who can't see see the veins," Barber says. EMT workers were enthusiastic users thanks to the Hemo-Iso's capability of making bruising more visible.
From there, Barber and Changizi embarked on a two-year odyssey to find a manufacturer to make the eyewear that would enable them to sell commercially. Through 2AI Labs, they were able push their discoveries into mainstream applications without having to rely on grants; any funding they earn from their inventions is reinvested. They also forewent some of the traditional development steps. "We bootstrapped the bench testing and we didn't do any market research," Barber says.
Plenty of cold calling to potential manufacturers ensued. "As scientists talking to manufacturers, it seemed like we were speaking a different language," Barber says. Not to mention looking strange as they walked around wearing the purple and green-tinted glasses at trade shows. Changizi says they finally got lucky last year and found a few manufacturers able to produce the specialized specs. All are available on Amazon for just under $300.
Changizi and Barber aren't done yet. In addition to overseeing sales reps who are trying to get the glasses into the hands of more buyers, the two are in talks with companies such as Oakley and Ray-Ban to put the technology into sunglasses. Imagine, says Changizi, if you could more easily see if you are getting a sunburn at the beach despite the glare. They're testing a mirrored O2Amp lens specially for poker players (think: all the better to see the flush of a bluffer). Changizi says they are also working with cosmetics companies to embed the technology in creams that would enhance the skin's vasculature. Move over Hope in a Jar. Barber says it's not clear how profitable any of this will be yet: "We just want the technology to be used."
Now that's my style of business. Throw out the damn text book and think for yourself.
More people need to make use of the technology we have and quit acting like we're still in the stone age.
For example, there is no energy crisis, we have nuclear power at our disposal.
These guys and others like them should be managing the planet.
Not the greedy, ignorant politicians.
It seems to me that if these glasses did nothing else but tint purple, they would still allow you to pass a color blindness test because they would alter the brightness of some colors differently then others. That is a far cry from "curing color blindness" since the glasses would simply make a different set of colors invisible. For all the shop talk, I don't see any evidence that these guys have done anything other then invent a color.
Whats does it matter how simple or cheap it is as long as it works?
Reminds me of this guy.
What's the point in gaining knowledge if we don't use it for everyone's benefit?
For years there has been a contact lens called X-Chrom Lens for red-green color deficient people. It was originally only available in a Hard Lens style, but now is also available in Soft Lenses. They worked, not by curing the color blindness, but by compensating for the deficiency, just as regular glasses don't cure vision problems like nearsightedness, but compensates for it.
I wore the hard lens style for 25 years to work in law enforcement, starting in 1979. It was a single dark red lens worn in the non-dominant eye, and was not available in standard glasses, since it would look odd with one dark red lens and one clear lens (although I made a pair of "mirrored Police Sunlasses") in case I couldn't wear the contact lens.
If these new glasses are very discreet, I can see them being very popular with the number of red-green color deficient people in the world. Even with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the world still continues to color code things, primarily using Red and Green (like traffic signals, indicator lights on electronic devices, etc).
You guys did this story on Feb 8
In the comments section, somebody from the UK talks about color blind glasses that have been available for years.
KillerT: What I was saying was that while these glasses may have uses, it is dishonest to say that they "cure color blindness."
It sounds to me like Composersf's X-Chrom lenses would have a stronger case for the claim, as they would create a brightness conflict between the two eyes when a color that the person could not normally see was present. A red shirt would look the same through both eyes, but a green shirt would look darker through the red lens then through the clear one.
AGReily is correct. A red lens will only allow the red spectrum to pass through. Therefore,reds get very vivid while greens are very dark (the green spectrum having no red component). The initial effect is almost a 3d image. After a few days, the brain gets used to the 2 eyes seeing different colors and the 3d efect disappears. The wearer still has to "relearn" their colors as the contact lens does not cure colorblindness, only compensates for it.
I am curious how it would work out with the O2 Amp glasses being in front of both eyes.
The story is a con. Didydmium Glasses are easy to find on the web at prices far under $300 and work just the same. If you wanted to see a difference with the regular vision you would merely have to look over or around the glasses. This would solve the compensation effect of wearing them on one eye only, as you would be controlling the change.
There are many benefits as they block the sodium flare of a fire and some parts of the infrared that are not blocked by iron green sunglasses. By blocking the Sodium flare they also make fireplace fires much prettier than they are as seen without the effect.
The effect noted in the article was noted in a book on colored glass from 1906.
Checkout Colormax for color vision correction. They have a 100% success rate and guarantee success with passing the Ishihara color test.
freedom, when you can prove that the didymium lenses and these lenses use the same chemistry, then you can label Mark Changizi and Tim Barber's fraudulent.
AGReilly, who claimed a 'cure' for colorblindness?
Colormax lenses just let you cheat on the test! They are worse than these purple tinted glasses. EnChroma glasses are the only ones Ive researched that actually work. Twice the price though, but at least they worked for me!