A project log for Chromatize - Color Blindness Correction and More

Everyone is colorblind. Let's fix that.

PointyOintmentPointyOintment 03/18/2016 at 09:430 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.