New App Helps Color-blind Users Better Distinguish Colors

Shelby Rogers

A new app from Microsoft could help color-blind users get visual clarity.

Being color blind affects 1 in 12 men in the world and 1 in 200 women. More often than not, the entire color spectrum isn't affected, but sufferers struggle with identifying shades of red and green.

The Color Binoculars app uses your iPhone's camera, and enhances reds and greens to make them more obvious. Creator Tom Overton said the app came out of fulfilling a personal need as well.

colorblind[Image Courtesy of Microsoft on the App Store]

“Anything with red or green messes me up,” said Tom Overton, who developed the app. “It’s not so terrible, but it does affect you. For instance, fall leaves don’t look any different for me than other leaves. They look like they always do. It takes a lot of color out of my life – metaphorically, that is.”

While Color Binoculars doesn't cure color blindness, it certainly helps. Overton noted he created the app in Microsoft Garage, Microsoft's in-house creation lab for apps.

The app doesn't save images or video, but simply "translates" the images into a language color blind users' eyes understand. Color Binoculars supports all three types of color blindness, according to its product description.

Humans have three cone cells in their eyes upon birth - one for red hues, one for blue and one for green. Color blindness stems from a lack or trouble with one of these conic structures. Color blindness is often genetic, but sometimes it can be linked to aging or eye injury. And while seeing in grayscale is what people normally think of when we hear "color blind," only rare cases are limited to black, white and gray.