The New App Putting Us In The Shoes Of The Colour-Blind

Chromatic Vision Simulator

Vision expert Kazunori Asad has recently developed an app to allow us to view images with a ‘colour blind’ filter. Those with healthy vision are able to compare an ordinary image to one which can be viewed in lighting conditions to simulate colour blindness.

Kazunori Asad suggests that legendary artist Vincent van Gogh may have suffered from colour blindness due to the muted tones of his paintings. For a viewer with healthy vision, some colours seem too intense, some of the lines too harsh and parts of the paintings are disjointed. However, Asad’s filter makes it possible to view the art from the eyes of the artist himself, and the results are astonishing.

Iconic images such as Café Terrace at Night look dramatically different under a colour-blind filter. The original image to the average viewer features an emphasis on lime green tones beneath the cafe’s shelter and a contrasting tan balcony. The lights from the opposite window are bright orange and green shades, creating an overall impression of luminosity and intensity. However, Asad suggests that for Van Gogh, the image is more subtle and muted. For the colour-blind viewer, the painting loses the bright, garish shades of green and orange, instead offering a palette of softer ochre and warm yellows.

It is interesting to consider that these more subtle versions of the classic works of art could be how Van Gogh intended them to appear. Whilst it is not formally confirmed that the artist suffered from colour-blindness, Kazunori Asad hopes to provide an insight into how Van Gogh may have viewed his own paintings, perhaps encouraging us to re-evaluate his works.

The most common type of colour-blindness is protanopia which can be characterised by a lack of red receptors in the eyes’ photo-receptor cells. It is passed on through a colour vision gene on an X chromosome as a recessive disorder, meaning it is more commonly found in men. The retina at the back of the eye contains sensitive cells called cones which are categorised by their sensitivity to different colours. If one or more of these types of cells is faulty, vision can be disrupted. It is this common type of colour-blindness Asad hopes to emulate with his new app.

The free allows users to upload any photo and apply different filters to experiment with how it may be viewed by someone with colour-blindness. Named the Chromatic Vision Simulator (free download) tool, it is available for iPhones, PCs and Android phones and could be the latest step towards understanding eye conditions. To those with healthy vision, little is known about colour-blindness, but Asad’s app would mean that everyday images can be viewed from an alternative perspective.

Posted by Victoria Steele, who writes for online retailer of round glasses, Direct Sight. ❚