Shades of surprise: App helps color blind

September 19, 2011

Adam Baldwin's art is loaded with creativity, but there's one thing missing from his sketches... color.

"My favorite colors? I like pencil," Adam told Ivanhoe.

Adam was born colorblind, and his condition has worsened over time.

"Reds and greens are starting to mix together on me now, and I really don't understand how that's possible," Adam said.

"Patients can't see certain wavelengths of color usually because of a defect in the cones in the retina," Richard Cohn, M.D., an ophthalmologist at the Cohn Eye Center in Maitland, Fla., said.

It's something computer security researcher Dan Kaminsky understands well. That…and a concept called "augmented reality."

"The idea behind augmented reality is you can take images and scenes that you would normally see and then overlay extra data," Kaminsky told Ivanhoe.

His app -- the DanKam -- combines a smartphone's camera with adjustable filters. They take subtler shades of red, green and blue and sharpen them -- making them more visible. Each person can tweak the settings to fit his or her deficiency.

"You have to take reds and make them a little bit pinker and greens and make them a little bit bluer," Kaminsky said.

For Adam, it sounded too good to be true.

"Never believe in what I hear and only half of what I see," Adam said.

Which doesn't include shades of orange, blue, or hues in between. However, when he put the Dan-Kam to the test…

"I'm like a kid. This is awesome," Adam said.

Shades he couldn't spot before suddenly became clearer.

"I might actually put more colors in my drawings," Adam said.

Kaminsky originally created the DanKam for a colorblind friend who couldn't see a green character in Star Trek. The DanKam app is compatible with the iPhone and the Android. Other providers like Blackberry, Microsoft and Nokia plan to release versions soon.

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