Chromatize - Color Blindness Correction and More

Everyone is colorblind. Let's fix that.

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This project's primary goal is to enable traditionally-considered-colorblind people—who make up ~5% of the population—to perceive the full color spectrum, and its secondary goal is to give everyone multispectral or hyperspectral vision.

The idea is that a filter wheel spins and presents the eye with differently filtered visual stimuli in rapid succession. Combined with some kind of sync signal, this will hopefully allow the brain to combine the differently filtered stimuli into the perception of a full-color/hyperspectral scene.

I know about EnChroma, but that only works for people with one kind of color blindness. It is much simpler, though, so it could be a better option for those people.

Also, just because some people have asked, I myself am not traditionally considered colorblind—I have what is currently considered full color vision. And a few people, when I asked them to guess what my project was for, suggested it was an LSD simulator. So I might

Current project status: I have made a mockup of the invention using two color filter wheels and a set of active shutter 3D glasses. When I looked through the different filters in the wheels, I saw objects whose color matched that of the currently active filter as brighter and those whose color did not match as darker. I think this counts as a successfully tested initial prototype.

Open source and licensing: This project has no intellectual property so far except for the text, photos, and diagram. No code repository has been created yet, nor has anyone else's IP been used for anything. When I use others' IP in this project, I will make sure to comply with their license terms, and will list the licensed components so everyone can see what I used and who helped me. When I publish code, CAD files, etc., created for this project, I will make sure to choose a license for it that allows others to benefit from my work.

A few months ago, I found some color filter wheels from projectors on Protospace's free shelf. Soon I came up with the idea to use them to give color vision to colorblind people.

The brain will require some kind of signal to know which color filter it's looking through at the moment. This is the "sync" line in the diagram. This could be provided by an LED flashing in the eye, transcranial magnetic stimulation, embedded electrodes, a tactor, or some other method.

Training with gradually increasing frequency of filter switching will be required. Hopefully it will be possible to exceed the flicker fusion threshold because the processing will occur earlier in the vision pathways, but I'm not at all confident about this part.

Using color filter wheels with more than the standard red/green/blue filters could even give people the ability to see more colors than they can even imagine currently! The wheels I picked up from the free shelf have some other colors, so this could be easy to experiment with.

The terrible diagram you currently see is the best diagram I will ever be able to create in GIMP.

  • Resumption

    PointyOintment10/05/2016 at 15:19 0 comments

    Two days late for the Assistive Technologies round deadline. I thought it was today (not that I would have won anything). Oh well.

    I stopped work on this project because I thought my color filter wheels and shutter glasses had been stolen. The other day I found them again: I had only misplaced them. Therefore I will be resuming work on this project.

    In the meantime I mostly built a demo/test box to demonstrate the concept and test out different color filters—I bought a Lee filters sample pack at a photography store to try different filters for possible future incorporation into the glasses. I had intended to demonstrate it at Calgary Mini Maker Faire, but I only started building the box the night before, and didn't get it done in time. Next year™.

    I also bought a second spectrophotometer of the same kind, which works fine. I'll probably put some kind of controller on it at some point for automated spectrum capture, and use the first one for parts. (Aside: The other week Surplus Sales had an LKB Biochrom Ultrospec II, a quite nice UV/VIS spectrophotometer which would also have been easier to automate, which I was considering buying, but by the time I'd looked it up online and returned to buy it, someone else had bought it. I can't go there very often anymore, because their hours are similar to my school hours.)

    Anyway, now I need to do the following:

    • (preferably) Characterize the filters in the existing filter wheels
    • Finish the box
    • Try out different Lee filters
    • Get an Arduino to control the filter wheels and shutter glasses

  • Back at it, and bought a spectrophotometer

    PointyOintment05/30/2016 at 01:27 0 comments

    After two months away from it (lots of schoolwork, and then a bit of time to relax after the semester ended), I'm picking up this project again.

    One of the things that was on my mind when I last worked on it was my desire to obtain a spectrophotometer to characterize the color filters in the filter wheels I have, as well as any filters I may use or make in the future. Just last week, while browsing at the provincial government surplus store, I noticed that they had six Turner 350 spectrophotometers for $25 each! One of them, which I bought, was a slightly newer version with a black faceplate and power switch on the front panel. Before I bought it, I first plugged it in and powered it on (which resulted in the lamp lighting up and the meter going to full scale, as expected) and then tried to test it by sticking a strip of colored plastic from a drink bottle in the sample holder (which had no result, not as expected).

    I brought it back to Protospace on a Tuesday night (when we have our weekly open house) and guests April and Rachael very eagerly helped me disassemble it (being somewhat careful to protect the PMT from light), and then they and Protospace member Nick helped me attempt to diagnose it. Unfortunately, we didn't get very far. The main thing we noticed was that the needle would vibrate, and sometimes wander erratically down the scale, when we touched various parts inside, but it was never consistent. Probing the 1 Vpp output with an oscilloscope resulted in similarly inconsistent signals that sometimes looked like multiple frequencies superimposed.

    Further investigation of the connections to the PMT revealed that each of the PMT's pins had a stub of another wire on it, suggesting it had been cut out of another piece of equipment (possibly another Turner 350) and installed in this one. Perhaps this individual machine has a problem that causes it to damage PMTs, or perhaps the PMT was damaged by light during the replacement or during our disassembly. (Edit: No. PMTs can only be damaged by excessive light when powered up.) Next I will attempt to reverse engineer the whole circuit and figure out which points would be useful to probe.

    In other news, I intend to perform proof-of-concept testing soon with filters alternating under the user's direct control, with both colorsighted and colorblind subjects. With the mockup I did a couple of months ago, I did notice that things matching the color of the currently active filters looked brighter to me, which was the expected/desired effect. That counts as a successful prototype, right? I also need to get the color filter wheels turning under a microcontroller's control. Protospace member Derek mentioned something that does that in the context of discussing another member's project and I thought it might be useful for this, so I'll be looking into that as well.

  • Blog post!

    PointyOintment03/22/2016 at 18:33 0 comments

    This morning I woke up to the news that my project had been written up on the Hackaday blog. Thanks, @Benchoff!

    Thanks also to everyone who has liked my project so far, and, I guess, thinks it's worth a dollar!

    Unfortunately, I'm a bit sick this week (as well as recovering from biting my cheek really hard, twice, in the same place), so work will be slowed/delayed for a while. However, I can still type fine, so I'll be posting another project log entry or two soon.

    Some of the blog comments also alluded to other implementations and approaches to correcting color blindness, which I'm planning to cover in the next few days.

    A couple of the blog post comments mentioned that the DLP filter wheels can shatter while spinning. I don't know what the risk of this in my application is (given that they're probably not being heated and cooled as much), but I think this is another reason to make custom filter wheels out of a safer material such as a plastic. I don't think the very narrow pass band of dichroic filters is necessary for this application (with the current approach, anyway). For the prototypes I'll put some kind of shield around them, I guess.

  • Mockup

    PointyOintment03/18/2016 at 10:11 0 comments

    The other day I was at Protospace for our weekly mini open house. Protospace happens to be where I have my collection of color filter wheels (on my member shelf), and I intended to make a mockup that night. However, our magical wish-granting free shelf made it even better.

    That night, several pairs of active shutter 3D glasses had appeared on the free shelf, and proved quite popular. I had been thinking that my device would need shutters of some kind to eliminate motion blur as the filter wheels spin (analogous to the shutter in a movie projector eliminating motion blur as the projector switches frames), and these LCD shutters will probably do quite nicely. They work the same way as an auto-darkening welding helmet, but have a separate shutter for each eye, which (for 3D viewing) alternate in sync with the image being displayed on a screen to produce the 3D effect.

    I, however, will be closing and opening the shutters together rather than alternately, because the filter wheels will spin in sync with each other. My plan is to remove the shutters from the glasses and mount them and the filter wheel assemblies together onto a head harness of some kind. This mockup (color filter wheel assemblies taped to shutter glasses) was pretty heavy:

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  • Inspiration

    PointyOintment03/18/2016 at 09:43 0 comments

    I'm in a software development program at a local polytechnic institute currently, and the first semester, being common among all IT majors, included a course intended to help orient students to the whole field and the other majors offered in case they want to switch. This included a field trip one day, a tour of the telecom department. I learned about interesting technology, the hardware was fascinating, and there was a demo of splicing optical fibers at the end.

    But what's relevant to this project is that one of my classmates asked if he would be able to do cabling even though he's colorblind, and was told he wouldn't be able to, because it requires color vision. Later we had a brief conversation about EnChroma, which we'd recently seen in the news, but neither of us really knew anything about it. Later, I looked it up and found that it works by providing a greater separation between red and green wavelengths entering the eye, and therefore doesn't work for all types of color blindness (though red–green is the most common).

    Months later, I found some color filter wheels from DLP projectors on the Protospace free shelf. These are used to enable the (single-chip, white-lamp) DLP projector to project a color image, while the DLP chip itself is a grayscale device, by filtering the light from the lamp to one color at a time, and cycling through the colors faster than the human eye can detect. I also knew that while most digital cameras on the ground use a Bayer filter array or other color filter array to take color photos, many of those on space probes use a color filter wheel, because this enables greater resolution and sensitivity (and sometimes is used to take a photo in only one band, full-color photos not always being necessary for science and data return being carefully budgeted). Such mechanical color filter wheel arrangements were also used in early color television technologies, but those were soon surpassed by the purely electronic system that was used until the 2000s.

    I pretty much immediately had the idea to put those color filter wheels in front of a colorblind person's eyes to enable them to see in color the same way a space probe's camera does. However, I didn't make any significant progress, after investigatively disassembling the color filter wheel assembly, for a while. This year's Hackaday Prize gave me motivation to resume work on this project.

    In the intervening period, I quizzed a bunch of people at Protospace and at school about the intended purpose of my project, giving clues such as that it's to solve a common problem, how space probes take color photos, the existence of a commercial product that solves this problem for only some sufferers, that anaglyph glasses could be used as a 'poor man's version', etc. I found it interesting that my friends who generally work on more technical things had a harder time guessing what it was for, and those who generally work on less technical things guessed the purpose more quickly, on average.

    Just yesterday I showed it to one of my friends in the networking major, and she guessed what it was for as soon as she saw the photo, and said one of her classmates (not the same one as before—he's in software development with me) needs it because he's colorblind and is always asking what colors the wires are when he's doing cabling.

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SmokeyVW wrote 12/06/2016 at 02:35 point

this is a great idea!
a suggestion for "synching the brain": check out Benham's top's_top - perhaps the sync you seek is a pattern of flashing to encode colors. i'm thinking something like pie-shaped pieces of colored gel rotating along with the black shutter could be used to encode different hues to different flash codes...
also see:

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joe57005 wrote 10/06/2016 at 04:46 point

I think a good idea would be to take the color filters and make a pair of glasses with the filters in a row on the bottom third of the lenses, a bit like bifocal glasses, except these would be quad-focal. One would only need to move their head slightly to see an object or scene behind the filter they want. you'd just need to make sure that like filters are the same width apart as the user's pupillary distance.

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Ivoah wrote 03/22/2016 at 05:43 point

Congrats on getting featured on the HaD blog :) As a colorblind person myself, this project obviously has a great interest to me, I can't wait to see where you go with it. Keep up the good work.

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DeepSOIC wrote 03/18/2016 at 10:36 point

Would be interesting to put a bandpass-sweep wheel in front of the eye. The only problem is to figure out how to make one. Thin film technology required...

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PointyOintment wrote 03/20/2016 at 08:31 point

That would be fantastic! That would effectively give hyperspectral vision, vs. multispectral. (Though it might be harder to train for.) And the human eye's spectral response doesn't have any complete gaps, so I think that would probably be workable. Maybe for version 2! :) BTW, the filters I'm using right now are actually thin film stuff (dichroic filters).

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Keegan Reilly wrote 03/21/2016 at 02:24 point

If my vacuum pump works then thin film tech could be in reach someday :)  Anyways, awesome project!  I've been hoping more people would start doing "brain hacks" on here, and this definitely counts.  Good luck!  Also, best brain drawing ever... 

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V McCoy wrote 03/16/2016 at 15:21 point

Nice project! As a colourblind person myself (I have mild-protan colour deficiency) I would gladly be a test subject!

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Eric Hertz wrote 03/15/2016 at 13:44 point

Haha, I like the Brain ;)

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Moritz Walter wrote 03/15/2016 at 09:32 point

Awesome idea! Very plausible that this could work at least for still pictures. But hard for those with color blindness AND epilepsy @_@

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PointyOintment wrote 03/15/2016 at 15:36 point

Yeah, we'll have to be careful about that. It would likely be even worse with the addition of a shutter, which I think might be necessary to prevent motion blur (as in a movie projector). Fortunately, though, photosensitive epilepsy is present in only a small percentage of the population (for which I find numbers like 0.3%–3%, 5% of 1%, etc., which are still larger than I expected), with most (2/3) being genetically female (XX) while most (~99%) color blindness sufferers are genetically male (XY), so I can, hopefully, still help most color blindness sufferers, and then someone (maybe me) can figure out how to make it work for people who also have PSE.

(Ideas: Use an anti-epileptic drug such as valproate during training, and then once over the flicker fusion threshold or maximum seizure-triggering frequency—if that's possible—it won't be necessary anymore? Have them wear this device on only one eye? Or just omit red, because PSE is triggered by flashing red more than by flashing other colors? This research is interesting:

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