This is an exciting day for this blog. I get pitches about interesting products at work, but most aren't something that would fit in the coverage area of Chemical & Engineering News. So the idea was to create an outlet where I could cover whatever I found interesting and get to try some neat stuff in the bargain.
The first pitch successfully converted from one I couldn't accept at work to one I could accept here was two pair of special glasses from VINO Optics. These glasses are designed to make it easier to see the colors in human skin arising from differences in the oxygenation of blood, especially for folks with red-green colorblindness. They sent two types, Blood Draw & Colorblind (or Oxy-Iso) and Paramedic Vein (Oxy-Amp), the latter of which is marketed to EMTs to assist with finding veins. They also make a third kind, Bruise-Finding (Hemo-Iso), that makes bruises more visible. VINO provided the glasses free of charge but has not otherwise paid for this blog post.
VINO's glasses are designed around the theory that the red-green dimension of human color vision evolved around the ability to detect changes in the emotions and health of other humans via the color in their faces. Being able to tell if someone was flush, pale, bruised, etc. gave people an advantage. And red-green colorblind people goes the theory, don't see that kind of thing very well.
It's true for me. I can't see most bruises well. If someone is red in the face from anger or effort, I can't tell. If someone is pale with fear or illness, it's basically lost on me.
The tech was originally developed for use by medical professionals, both to give colorblind ones the ability to take some coloration information into account and to improve the contrast on blood vessels.
I've written about glasses designed to help colorblind people before, both for C&EN and for this blog, which is how I came to the attention of this company. The keyword for the experience of those glasses is "subtle."
VINO's glasses are not subtle. The Colorblind type are a vivid pink/purple to look at and drastically change what the world looks like when you put them on. Knowing their backstory, the first thing I looked at were my veins, and indeed I can clearly trace a vein from my wrist down to my elbow; much more visible than without the glasses. But, as is often true, my babies are more interesting to look at.
I'll admit that VINO's marketing materials primed me for this. But normally, adult skin doesn't look any different for me than kid/baby skin. I was under the impression that "the glow of youth" was a figurative thing. But with these on, I can really see the difference. Their lips, ears, and the tips of their noses are pinker than their foreheads and cheeks. And they look a little bit translucent somehow, as if they were gently illuminated from within.
The glasses are fun to walk around wearing, because they change the colors so strongly. Reds become oranges but also become much more vivid. Red cars become an attractive copper color. Greens take on a cooler tone, so grass becomes a Christmas-tree green. Yellow dandelions really stand out from the grass with these on.
The chips aisle is fun, I'd never noticed how heavily that category of junk food uses reds, oranges, and yellows. Ignore the purple tone in the photo above, your brain corrects for that in a matter of minutes. But notice how it flattens the designs on the bag.
The Vein type are lighter in tint and didn't do as much for me, though the company says upfront they won't do much for colorblind people.
For me, colorblindness is mostly a conversation starter, and the Colorblind glasses are fun and interesting. They also function perfectly well as sunglasses. But I was curious to see what a medical professional would think of them.
Kristen Janiszewski, RN BSN CPN, is a nurse at the Pediatric Progressive Care Unit at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. She wore the Blood Draw & Colorblind type as she went about her work, and also shared them with her coworkers. Here are her thoughts, which are her own and in no way reflect the opinions of her employer.
"I appreciate that I can wear these over my regular eyeglasses. Granted, I look way less cool to a patient than my coworker just wearing the vein goggles on their own, but I have to see.