EnChroma unveils sunglasses for the color blind

EnChroma, an optical technology company that focuses on products for people who are “color vision deficient,” has introduced its  first line of sunglasses for the enhancement of color vision. More than 10 million Americans live with red/green color vision deficiency (CVD), commonly known as “red/green color blindness,” according to company officials.

EnChroma’s sunglasses, marketed under the name Better Color Vision, feature an optical coating that selectively filters wavelengths of light responsible for color confusion. The result is a significant improvement in the signal to noise ratio in the chromatic channels and an increase in the variety and purity of colors, company officials said.

EnChroma color vision enhancing eyewear provides a performance boost in the cockpit and a more pleasurable way to take in the world below, company officials said. “Proper color identification is crucial for air safety; individuals with color vision deficiency are shown to have significantly slower reaction times to color-coded information,” officials continued in a prepared statement. “EnChroma eyewear has been clinically shown to improve color identification and response time for those with CVD.

“For every thousand feet of altitude gained the amount of UV radiation increases 4%,” officials said. “All our products offer 100% protection for UVA/UVB/UVC and cosmic rays, which is important as pilots rely heavily on their eyesight and yet are more prone to sun related cancers and degenerative eye disorders. Our UV450 product goes even further and blocks into the blue spectrum, eliminating short wavelength light thought to contribute to macular degeneration and cataract formation, while also providing color enhancement. ”

The company emerged out of an NIH SBIR grant designed to study the feasibility of enhancing color vision in humans, particularly among the color blind/color vision deficient. Dr. Don McPherson, VP of product development, originally came up with the idea for EnChroma’s line of advanced optics while producing custom protective eyewear for laser surgeons.

“Our ‘A Ha’ moment came when I realized that the surgeons were taking the protective eyewear out of the operating room and using them as sunglasses at the beach,” said McPherson. “Investigating this phenomenon further I then discovered that the eyewear had a noticeable positive impact on the wearer’s color vision, explaining both increased performance differentiating tissue in the operating room and enhanced vividness of the natural world outdoors. During the design process I had intended on making glasses that would block one very narrow bandwidth of laser, nothing more. Thus the discovery, like many great discoveries, was accidental and a side effect of creating something else. The end result was the development of a product with far more benefits than the original product.”

Following his discovery and finding, Dr. McPherson decided to seek out funding via grants and the technological expertise of Andy Schmeder, a Berkley-based mathematician and computer scientist, to develop EnChroma Advanced Optics into a consumer product. Schmeder used these new observations to produce a new kind of product designed specifically to improve color vision in humans.

Additional Facts about Color Deficiency:

  • One in 12 men have some sort of color deficiency.
  • Color deficiency is more prevalent among males (8%) than females (0.4%), because the most common form of color vision deficiency is encoded on the X chromosome.
  • Strongly color blind people might only be able to differentiate 25,000 hues whereas a person with normal color vision is able to distinguish more than 1 million different hues.

The first to be released in the line will be the Cx Series, to improve color vision for people with normal vision and those with protanomalous and deuteranomalous CVD (red/green color blindness). The Cx Series will include the following models available in both Rx and zero-power lens:

  • EnChroma Cx: Super Color Enhancing Lens – This lens is suitable for general use, and is designed to enhance the vividness and intensity of color for individuals with normal color vision.
  • EnChroma Cx-D: Optical Aid for Deuteranomalous Color Vision Deficiency – The EnChroma Cx-D is a Super Color Enhancing (SCE) lens that is specially designed for use by individuals with deuteranomaly, assisting wearers with differentiating commonly confused colors.
  • EnChroma Cx-PT: Optical Aid for Protanomalous Color Vision Deficiency – The EnChroma Cx-PT is a Super Color Enhancing (SCE) lens that is specially designed for use by individuals with protanomaly, assisting wearers with decreased red sensitivity commonly found with this deficiency.

The EnChroma Cx series feature precision optical coatings made of ultra-durable metal oxides on a lightweight (less than 30g including frames) 1.3mm glass lens. These 100% UV blocking sunglasses are available in prescription and ordinary zero-power ANSI Z80.3 compliant sunglass lenses. The various models in the EnChroma Cx series will be available in a variety of styles for men and women, with a children’s line to follow.

For more information: EnChroma.com


      • Jon says

        These may be great for folks who want to go out and enjoy the sun and flowers. However, I would assume that they’re NOT recognized by the FAA and thus will not be of use to anyone who wishes to use them obtain a pilot license. Am I wrong?

        I don’t mean pass the Ishihara, because that does not solve the issue. I mean like have them approved so you can totally side-step this issue of color deficiency legitimately.

    • CJ says says

      If you are only partially color deficient you may get some benefit from these lenses. However, I tried them and got a eye strain after several hours outside, as they recommended, to test them. I even wore a hat with a fairly large brim, but started to get a headache.
      But, one thing for sure happens, the reds get red’r and the greens are green’r. Even the distant terracotta looked identifiable on some buildings that I never really paid to much attention too.

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