A day with the EnChroma colorblind correction glasses
One of my earliest memories with my mom was driving at Radnor Lake in Nashville (back when you could drive there,) and her asking me what the colors of the autumn leaves were and I told her brown and yellow. She proceeded to ask me if I saw the tints of orange, red, etc and I said no.
Years later I had my dreams of being able to pilot a plane by myself after finding out I was colorblind. No, I’m not copying Little Miss Sunshine, and my disappointment was tempered by the fact that I hadn’t had any real experience, just hundreds of hours of flight simulators and learning to plot location on a map using VOR/DME. (seriously spent months back in the CoCo2 days playing with a B&W flight sim that took eight minutes to load off the tape).
I hadn’t really thought much about being colorblind much until last year when I heard of EnChroma, a company that was producing glasses that claimed color for the colorblind. I’d used a set of glasses in the past for driving purposes that helped me differentiate colors somewhat (BluBlockers, yes, I’m lame,) but they didn’t do much for getting things into the proper spectrum. Great driving glasses though.
I also use some special glasses for when I’m doing wiring work as it’s pretty much impossible without as the orange, green, and brown on CAT-5 wiring tends to all look the exact same in a dim lighting electrical closest.
But nothing corrected the color. It just helped me distinguish at the expense of making the world look wrong.
My dad dropped me a note saying he’d finally found a good write up on them and wanted to get me some for my birthday. Hell yeah. Ordered.
I’d taken several colorblind tests besides the one that EnChroma offers, and all tended to indicate that I was either a strong or moderate protan (protanopia = red/green colorblindness).
Sidenote – I have a signed roll of duct tape from the star of the Red Green TV show, I figure anyone who doesn’t watch it probably is a Protan…
After waiting about 11 days the glasses showed up yesterday. I left work to grab them as I was actually kind of giddy to see if they worked. They’ve got a 60 day return policy in case they don’t so I was not feeling rushed, but I wanted to try them.
I took a few photos of them and attempted to get outside. Figured I’d film a reaction video. There were three lawnmowers going across the street and a cat nonstop meowing and a car crash. I managed to not press record for my first few seconds and the crash. Of course. Think I’m going to skip posting a video of me wandering around looking at things for the moment.
The world looks weird
I’m not sure what I expected. I mean I know what color is. I just have difficulty seeing reds. I didn’t think I had that much of a problem with greens personally, but then again who knows. There are a lot of greens. I was looking at a bush that I thought had two shades and noticing maybe five or six.
The bricks on my house which I know are all different colors looked even more different. The cat that was meowing and wouldn’t stop meowing at my feet before finally managing to trip me still looked about the same (but he’s mostly gray and white).
The sky is confusing me to the point I think I might be seeing red where there is none. I saw what I’m believing is indigo or hard pink at the edges of the sky. This is something I’ve never heard someone talking about in my life except when perhaps describing sunsets or sunrises and this was about 2pm. What’s odd is I’m not seeing that anywhere else – like I look at a white wall and it’s white. I don’t see traces of indigo.
Confused by that. I decided to head back into work and decided that since it was not rush hour and the streets were relatively deserted at 2pm that this was probably not going to be the irresponsible act I’m sure some may claim. I wasn’t having any issues with headaches, weird vision other than colors, etc. It just seemed like I had a more colorful world. I’m pretty sure I was good to drive.
I’ve got a few green lights in my neighborhood that are washed out. I don’t know how to describe them but as a colorblind man I’m usually hoping that the sky isn’t particularly bright when I hit them as I need to look behind them for comparisons.
While still extremely washed out looking, green was evident. Red popped. I don’t think I ever understood what people were talking about red jumping out at you until yesterday. There’re shades of purple I think I’ve seen that popped out, but the reds were there. Strongly.
The drive was uneventful. The world looked even weirder through the slightly tinted windows I have. They’re not anything past factory tint, but things looked slightly purple/bluish in the tint. I thought they were just black/grey/dark before.
I got to work and realized exactly how 1990s my office building is. I also realized I was wearing sunglasses inside and felt slightly like a tool but I wanted to see what I could see.
Indoor impressions of the outdoor glasses
The EnChroma glasses I purchased sort of work indoors but not particularly well. I of course tried a colorblind test and got a slightly better score than usual but I was suffering the added issue of everything just being dim. I’m not really putting them down, the ones I got were outdoor glasses. They make indoor as well.
I went a little later and picked up my oldest daughter from pre-K. I didn’t notice much inside but one we hit outside I was pretty surprised at the difference I saw. She wanted to play with my glasses. I told her hell no and got her a pair of sunglasses. Sorry three year old, I’ve seen what your hands do.
Anyway, the outdoor glasses work a little bit for indoors, but I feel like the color separation drops significantly with lack of light. Same as or faster than my colorblindness actually.
So I took them to a color correcting engineer
I’ve probably mentioned before that I work in a place that does TV, films, movies, audio recording, etc. My particular segment of this involves keeping everyone’s computers working, maintaining building IT infrastructure, and not much that has to do with anything creative (other than figuring out new ways to beat a dead horse).
In house we have a guy who does color correcting/post processing. I told him my dilemma – how does a colorblind man say what’s going on with colorblind corrective lenses? He was interested in helping on this as a very high percentage of his clients are colorblind (more than the law of averages would account for.)
He put them on and looked at several pictures I’m assuming he knows exactly what they should look like and mentioned that it appeared that the reds and greens were enhanced, but due to crappy testing conditions (indoors,) we didn’t get much beyond that as I’m not paying him to go outside and this was a free look (may have some time later, but not today so far).
Not yet… well, not a wow, break down into tears moment although they claim it can take two weeks for them to fully work on some people (I question why this would be personally as a born again skeptic.) I’m still trying to determine if it’s worth it or if I made the wrong choice in getting the outdoor glasses as opposed to the indoor versions, where I sadly spend more of my time.
The world looks pretty, but I’m not sure it looks that pretty yet.
Then again, the grass is mostly dead, I missed all the blooming flowers, and we’re not into fall colors yet so I’ve got a pretty good chance that it looks better soon as long as I can keep these out of the little ones hands.
I’ve got no dog in the EnChroma colorblind fight. I’d love to say they correct my level of colorblindness and get me to perfect, but all I can really say at the moment is they make outdoors look nicer, I can see a lot better to drive, and people look better.
Also everything looks sharper (sort of like with the BluBlockers,) but this may just be an effect of proper sunglasses (which I generally don’t wear due to becoming even more colorblind).
Anyway, I’ll probably follow up in a week or so with findings. Also the balloons which were included were a huge hit with my kids.