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New color glasses created at UW-Madison allow us to see more of world

New color glasses created at...

Looking at the same color side by side, it's typically hard to see any difference. This is because humans are trichromatic, meaning they can only process three color channels, consisting of red, blue and green wavelengths.

Mikhail Kats, an assistant professor of Engineering and Computer Sciences at UW-Madison, asked the questions, "Why?" and, "How can we see more?".

"Students, including me, rarely learn about how human vision actually works, which is a little bit surprising because at the end of the day, if you're studying optics, you would think that would be the first thing you learn," Kats said.

Utilizing graduate students, and with the help of his graduate assistant, Brad Gundlach, Kats found the answers through a special lens.

"We both agreed that it was really interesting and we just went from there," Gundlach said.

By looking through the color glasses they've created, which have separate filters for each eye, you can enhance your ability to look at different colors.

Kats said if people can perceive more colors or be able to differentiate hues, it could benefit society in many ways. 

"We believe we're the first to really try to develop a rigorous methodology that puts everything together in a way that might really be useful," Kats said.

Right now, his team has only created glasses that can split the blue color channel, but they're planning to make green and red filters. With those, Kats said people could spot counterfeit money or pick out camouflaged objects. The glasses could also be used to see more paint colors in artwork, find bruises on fruit and even see nature more vibrantly.

The idea for color glasses also opens the door to helping people with color deficiency see the world as others do. Kats said he didn't initially invent the glasses for that purpose, though. He did it more for the scientific discovery and to give people a way to see the world with more color. 

"We're expanding the potential range for the human experience and often times when a technology like this comes into play, you don't know where it's going to go and that's the most exciting part," Kats said.

The glasses are still in the early stages of development so they won't be for sale any time soon. Kats said they could consider it in the future, as more experiments and studies are done.


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