18/01/2017 7:49 AM AEDT | Updated 22/01/2017 9:55 AM AEDT

How The Technology Behind Colour Blind Glasses Actually Work

More than 300 million people in the world are colour blind.

Most colour blind people are only partially colour blind.

For colour blind people, the world can appear grey and dull. Some colours are indistinguishable, such as purple and blue. Imagine if you couldn't see all the colours in a sunset; red appears brown, red and green traffic lights look white; peanut butter appears green; and pink looks grey.

Around 300 million people worldwide are colour blind; one in 12 men (eight per cent) and one in 200 women (0.5 per cent). Most colour blind people are only partially colour blind because they can still see colours, but they see only a narrow range of colours.

According to Vanessa Honson, Optometrist from UNSW Optometry Clinic, instead of 'colour blindness', it's more accurate to say 'colour deficiency' or 'colour weakness.'

"Colour blindness is typically inherited genetically and carried recessively on the X chromosome. A father can't pass his red-green colour blindness on to his sons. But if a woman is red-green colour blind, all her sons will also be colour blind," Honson told The Huffington Post Australia.

For decades, there have been glasses that claim to help the colour blind. They typically use a pink or reddish-tinted lens that means you're essentially looking through a red or pink pane of glass.

But now there are colour blind glasses that feature sophisticated technology that has had astounding results.

Colour blind artist Daniel Arsham has released a documentary film on the impact colour blindness has had on his art, and how EnChroma glasses dramatically changed his work.

For much of his career, Arsham favoured grey.

Daniel Arsham

But, after using the colour blindness glasses, he unveiled his first exhibition in full colour.

Daniel Arsham
Daniel Arsham's In Colour exhibition was his first showing after using EnChroma glasses.

"Colour blindness doesn't mean that I don't see colour. It means that the range of colour is drastically reduced, especially in low lighting scenarios or at times where you might have colours that are close to each other on the colour spectrum," Arsham told Semaine.

"So what these lenses do is refract the light in a different way so it separates the colours further apart on the colour spectrum. It's not actually curing it; what it's doing is tricking your eye into reading more variation."

EnChroma CEO Andy Schmeder told HuffPost Australia they've created a special patent-pending optical technology ('multi-notch' filtering) that removes small slices of light where the red and green cones in the retina overlap the most for the colour blind.

"The EnChroma glasses were researched through three US National Institute of Health (NIH) research grants and 10 years of R&D and clinical studies using scientific colour vision tests such as the D-15," Schmeder said.

"The glasses enhance the vibrancy and saturation of certain colours and improve colour discrimination, depth and detail perception without distorting the colours the colour blind already see well."

This chart shows the difference between the two types of colour blindness.

While the glasses are not a 'cure' for colour blindness, they've been shown to be effective for about four out of five red-green colour blind people.

"We hear from parents who tell us their child is now more confident in school because they can better see the colours in a social studies map or tell the difference when their teacher writes in red, green or purple marker on the board, or that they enjoy doing art more because their classmates don't laugh anymore because they're no longer colouring the sky purple instead of blue," Schmeder said.

The rainbow on the left is how many colour blind people see; the image on the right is through the colour blindness glasses.

To discover whether you are colour blind, you can do the Ishihara test or a simple online colour chart test that analyses your colour blindness in three minutes.

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