Microsoft’s Color Binoculars Correct Colorblindness


January 27, 2017

Colorblindness affects about 8% of Americans. There are multiple varieties of the condition, but the most common form is known as Red-Green Colorblindness. Individuals with this condition have trouble distinguishing between red and green. It’s not a terribly debilitating condition, but it can be frustrating in certain circumstances, such as when the NFL broadcasted a game where each team wore exclusively red or green. Colorblind sports fans were entirely unable to distinguish between the two teams.

Microsoft has recently released a new augmented reality application that corrects for colorblindness and allows users to see the world in full, vivid color.


Color Binoculars

The technology to correct or diminish the effects of colorblindness have been available for some time. Special sunglasses can be worn that help wearers distinguish between colors, but the new smartphone application proves to be more convenient.


How It Works:

The application, called Color Binoculars, uses the smartphone’s camera lens to display a corrected image of the world around the user. Of course, it cannot actually cure colorblindness, so it alters problematic colors in a way that helps users distinguish between them. Reds are made redder, while greens are made darker and deeper. Alternatively, it changes difficult color combinations into ones that are more easily recognized. For example, instead of red and green, Color Binoculars may display the image as pink and green.

The app also features the reverse function. It allows those without colorblindness to gain a little perspective and see the world through colorblind eyes.

The app was designed by Microsoft’s software engineer, Tom Overton. Overton, himself, is colorblind. Surprisingly, this effective application was simply a side project by Overton in addition to his responsibilities on the Cortana team.

On the Microsoft Blog, he cites an interesting use for the app. When cooking beef the application helps him determine when the meat is no longer pink and ready to be eaten.


The Power of Assistive Technology

Color Binoculars are a great example of a simple application with a huge effect. Like Google Translate, mobile apps like these break down barriers and allow us to overcome our deficiencies, and it did not even require a full-blown Microsoft project team to make it happen. Through the independent efforts of one software engineer, those with color blindness can quickly distinguish between colors in almost any situation. Better yet, the application is currently free on the Apple App Store.

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For Further Reading

Color Binoculars are in good company. As mobile technology came into its own, more and more forms of augmented reality are hitting the market.  Learn more about some of the available augmented reality apps.

Augmented Reality Applications that Aren’t Pokémon Go

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