Thursday, December 30, 2010

Color-Blind Technology

This is the season of Angry Birds and other apps that keep children amused and caged. I'm predisposed to the Renegade Cheetah or the Branded Monkey but will take my diversions where I can find them.

Among the half-million apps in the marketplace, there are a lot that provide utility. One caught my eye: an app for color blindness. Or more precisely, augmented reality for color blindness. This has been Dan Kaminsky's secret side project (  The DamKam app costs $3 and is available for the iPhone and Android.

I'm not an expert on color blindness but have read that about 30-40% of men have some degree of color blindness, mainly in the red-green spectrum. I'm included in that percentage. I didn't know this until I enlisted in the military and was shown the Ishihara test plates that Kaminsky describes. The test plates features the familiar colored dots with numbers circumscribed within the plate. If you are color blind you either can't read or have difficulty reading the numbers. The app makes reading the circumscribed numbers possible.

I've spent much of my life compensating for this, at red lights and elsewhere, Somehow I was able to serve as an assistant navigator on a Navy ship without running it aground.  But I couldn't qualify for nuclear submarine duty because of my color blindness. 

Here is an excerpt of a blog post on the Kaminsky site: "I used it today in the real world. It was amazing! I was at Target with my girlfriend and saw a blue plaid shirt that I liked. She asked me what color it was so I pulled up DanKam and said 'purple'. I actually could see the real color, through my iPhone. Thanks so much."

So now we know; there is a good reason men wear all those ugly shirts and sweaters and have no opinion when their partner comes out of the changing room with a dress that might as well be an Ishihara plate test. I wear a lot of black and it's not because I live in New York. (Read the blog post chain to get a sense of how infuriating this deficiency can be to woman who are not familiar with the condition).

This app resonates with utility for designers, artists, photographers, scientists, app game developers and those who design fashion for men.  One blogger suggested that the code for this app be sold to Apple who could implement it into the iOS software. Another suggested the inventor received the Noble Prize.

More than one blogger mentioned this was like an early Christmas present; technology used to advance the human condition.

I'll join that chorus.  

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