Color Binoculars: A New App Enabling the Colorblind to See the Rainbow

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Color Binoculars: A New App Enabling the Colorblind to See the Rainbow

For those of us with a vision spectrum full of color, it is quite difficult to imagine a world stuck in grayscale. But, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the new mobile app Color Binocular from Microsoft Garage helps those who are colorblind see the world in a spectacularly vibrant new light.

According to the National Eye Institute, “vision begins when light enters the eye and the cornea and lens focus it into the retina, a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that contains millions of light-sensitive cells called photoreceptors.” These photoreceptors are shaped either like cones or rods. “Cones contain one of three different photopigments… each sensitive to a different part of the visual spectrum, [and] is what gives us our rich color vision.”

Colorblindness most commonly occurs when there are deficiencies in the cone cell color receptors in the retina, causing the brain to perceive light differently. Roughly 1 in 12 men are colorblind globally, compared to 1 in 200 women.

Tom Overton, a Microsoft software engineer who happens to be colorblind, paired up with Tingting Zhu, also a Microsoft software engineer, to create Color Binoculars during the 2015 Microsoft Hackathon.


“It’s an app that helps colorblind people distinguish color combinations that they would normally have trouble telling apart,” Overton shared on the Microsoft Blog. “For example, since I have difficulty distinguishing between red and green, our app makes red brighter and greens darker so that the difference is more obvious. It replaces difficult color combinations, like red and green, with more easily distinguishable combinations, like pink and green.”

With the help of The Garage, the Microsoft outlet for their engineers around the world to help launch experimental apps and projects, Overton and Zhu were able to expand the app to support any size screen on iOS.

With the ability to produce a real time and almost augmented reality sense of a full world of color, the Color Binoculars app utilizes the technology of a camera phone to make life a little more beautiful for a lot more people. Download the app here to try it out for yourself.