Archive for the ‘Color & bare skin’ Category


There are those among us who are “health blind”, i.e., handicapped at sensing the health signals most of us easily recognize on others around us. They are the color blind. But we at O2Amp can fix that.



1. The Health-Blind Among Us

Despite the presence of modern electronic medical sensing tools, medical personnel still rely on their naked-eye visual skills when examining and judging the symptoms and health of patients (Savin et al. 1997).

But it is not widely appreciated that approximately 5% of medical personnel – 10% of men and 1% of women – are “health blind”, i.e., they are severely perceptually handicapped at sensing the health symptoms of patients. And they – and those that hire them – often don’t even realize.

Who are these “health blind” medical personnel?

Although not widely appreciated, it has long been documented that red-green color-deficients are disabled at seeing veins, vasculature, pallor, cyanosis, jaundice, rashes, bruising, erythema, retinal damage, ear and throat inflammation, and blood in excretions (Dalton 1798; Wilson 1855; Best & Jaenel 1880; Little 1881; Ahlenstiel 1951; Logan 1977; Voke 1980; Steward & Cole 1989; Spalding 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004; Currier 1994; Anthony & Spalding 1999, 2004; Campbell et al. 1999, 2004, 2005; Reiss 2001; Cockburn 2004; Cole 2004; Changizi et al., 2006, suppl Table 1; Spalding et al. 2012). Even 18th century scientist John Dalton, who was color blind, observed that he “could scarcely distinguish mud from blood” (Dalton 1798).

Even today 10% of the 500 most prevalent medical conditions list skin color changes amongst the symptoms (Changizi & Rio 2009), and a red-green color deficient’s deficit in discriminating reds and greens makes him or her unable to see these everyday health color signals on the skin.

Color deficiency can consequently lead to medical misdiagnosis (Campbell, 1999; Campbell et al., 2004, 2005), and has at various times prevented entry into medical school (Hiroshi, 1998).

If you’re red-green colorblind, then you’re health-blind. And among those not traditionally deemed color deficient, many are mildly so, and thus mildly health-blind.

The graph below shows the reported clinical difficulties among 42 color-deficient doctors surveyed by Spalding (1995). (It should be kept in mind that this particular graph shows reported difficulties, and thus does not capture what the color-deficient doctors don’t realize they’re missing.)

Self-reported clinical perception difficulties from 42 color-deficient doctors (Spalding, 1995).

Self-reported clinical perception difficulties from 42 color-deficient doctors (Spalding, 1995).

2. Color-Deficiency is an Especially Severe Problem for the Medical Profession

A variety of occupations (e.g., pilots, police) routinely require passing a color exam before entry, and in some countries passing a color exam is even required in order to get a driver’s license.

But, except in rare instances (e.g., Hiroshi, 1998), color blindness had not been a formal barrier for becoming a doctor.

Unfortunately, a recent discovery by researchers at our 2ai Labs ( http://2ai.org ) shows that color blindness is not just a problem for medical personnel, but a disproportionate problem for the medical community.

In 2006, we showed that color vision evolved specifically to distinguish health and emotion states on the skin: our peculiar primate variety of color vision evolved to be optimized for sensing the oxygenation modulations hemoglobin undergoes under the skin (Changizi et al., 2006).

Red-green color vision is uniquely about seeing oxygenation, and therefore red-green color-deficients are especially hindered at seeing the skin signals that underlie health signals. Unlike other fields where colorblindness is a handicap but where it is actually fairly unlikely to find perfectly indiscriminable colors to a color-deficient, the oxygenation variations of blood under the skin are completely invisible to the red-green colorblind because they’re missing the evolved machinery specifically designed to detect it.

Color blindness is consequently a critical issue in clinical settings for patient health. Approximately 5% of clinical personnel are handicapped at detecting everyday health signals on the skin (including seeing veins, for example), and yet many are not even cognizant of their handicap. (And neither are the many other personnel who are only mildly color-deficient (sometimes due to aging).)

Color deficiency is also a serious liability issue for medical staff and their employers, and color deficient doctors have been sued on this basis (see citation to News & Observer).

3. The O2Amp Medical Solution for Color-Deficiency

Historically there has been no solution for the color deficient clinician. Varieties of filtered eyewear for color deficients exist that can help them pass Ishihara tests or perceive certain discriminations among objects in the world. But none were designed to enhance the signal that primate color vision evolved to detect: oxygenation variations in the skin (Changizi et al., 2006). And thus no previous color blindness treatment was consistent with the health perception demands of medical personnel.

We at 2ai Labs, having discovered the evolutionary function of color vision, were in the unique position to design optical technology to enhance the signal for which color-deficients are deficient. In particular, we created O2Amp, our company highlighting several distinct optical technologies for enhancing perception of facets of the blood under the skin.

For color deficients our flagship technology is our Oxy-Iso Colorblind Correction Medical Eyewear, designed to amplify and isolate the oxygenation signal coming from under the skin. Color-normals use the eyewear to enhance perception of veins, but color-deficient medical personnel use the eyewear to amplify their minimal baseline sensitivity to oxygenation variations in the skin.

The Oxy-Iso doesn’t merely aid color deficiency…

…the Oxy-Iso aids color-deficiency in a manner consistent with the symptom-, vasculature-, and health-perceptual needs of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel.


[See O2Amp’s site – http://o2amp.com – for testimonials and more information. Also see the following for example results on the Farnsworth-Munsell Test: https://changizi.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/the-ravenous-color-blind-new-developments-on-o2amp-for-color-deficients/ ]

“I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed using your eyewear, especially the Oxy-Iso glasses. I now use them in all of my leg vein procedures. Being color blind makes finding deeper (reticular) cutaneous veins a challenge; the Oxy-Iso eyewear makes them much easier to see… We actually have the Christie Vein Viewer (one of the IR devices) in our office… Although it is a very cool product, it does markedly alter the appearance of veins and the treatment process itself. While I haven’t used the IR device much for sclerotherapy, I use my Oxy-Iso’s every single time.” – Daniel Friedmann, MD, Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery

“This is exciting. I have not been able to see colors my entire life… They really work. I recommend them.” – Cary M. Silverman, MD, ophthalmic surgeon, Eyecare 20:20. Video review.

“I had to try them, working in the Dental field, colors are very important in many aspects of my practice. They vary from instruments identification, diagnosis of the oral cavity, and many other aspects. I went from the muted colors that I was used to all my life, to what I perceive as a more bold, and brighter red and greens. To me the darker red shades, like maroons and burgandy colors are more lighter with the oxy-iso on. I went from not seeing any numbers on the online color blindness tests, to seeing most of them. It has been stated that there may be some limitations of these online test due to screen settings and ambient light. But going from seeing nothing to almost all of them is truly remarkable to me.” – DKH, DDS, Glen Cove

“After 20+ years of medical education, I had a healthy skepticism about these glasses. I mean, how can you “cure” color-blindness, my cone cells have a mutation and my brain has learned to adapt. My eyes simply can’t absorb light at those frequencies. But, I was intrigued. As a surgeon, being color blind has not affected me as much as you might think, texture is very important, as is consistency, and I think I rely on those cues all the time. However, I do have a problem telling if something is bile-stained versus just bloody, and dark bloody emesis I could only tell by the smell. But as an art lover, and flower lover, being color blind is just annoying. Not to mention trying to shop at places like J. Crew where all the stupid colors are like, “stone” and “sledge”. What? // Anyway, I bought these on a lark, and OH MY GOD, THEY WORK!!! I only get 1 right on the Ishihara color blindness plate test (red-green and some blue-yellow deficiencies), but with these glasses, I got more than half right! It makes everything brighter and so much more intense! I scrolled through a website of Impressionist paintings and it was incredible! Beautiful!! I can see red flowers on trees now!! I can see the red on birds’ wings!! it’s actually almost overwhelming, I don’t wear them very often because it makes me a little sad that I’ve lived 44 years with a muted palette. I haven’t tried them in the OR yet, but I’m on call Wednesday. . . Makes me wish I’d invented or invested.” – Dr. Marie Crandall, Associate Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

“Currently, I occasionally try them during orthopedic surgeries, but mostly during speys and castrations. Some of the pregnant or recently pregnant dogs/cats (especially cats) have large networks of enlarged superficial vasculature just beneath the skin, and the glasses can be beneficial in identifying and avoiding these during the initial incision.” Dr. Aaron Raney, color-deficient veterinarian

1. Ahlenstiel H (1951) Red-green blindness as a personal experience. Kodak Research Library, London.
2. Anthony J, Spalding, B (1999) Colour vision deficiency in the medical profession. Br J Gen Pract 49: 469-475.
3. Anthony J, Spalding B (2004) Confessions of a colour blind physician. Clin Exp Opt 87: 344-349.
4. Best, F, Haenel H (1880) Rotgrün blindheit nach schneeblendung. Kin Monatsbl Augenheilkd. Beilagen 45: 88-105.
5. Campbell JL, Spalding AJ, Mir FA, Birch J (1999) Doctors and the assessment of clinical photographs—does colour blindness matter? Br J Gen Pract 49: 459-461.
6. Campbell JL, Spalding AJ, Mir FA (2004) The description of physical signs of illness in photographs by physicians with abnormal colour vision. Clin Exp Optom 87: 334-338.
7. Campbell JL, Griffin L, Spalding AJ, Mir FA (2005) The effect of abnormal colour vision on the ability to identify and outline coloured clinical signs and to count stained bacilli in sputum. Clin Exp Optom 88: 376-381.
8. Changizi MA, Zhang Q, Shimojo S (2006) Bare skin, blood, and the evolution of primate color vision. Biology Letters 2: 217-221. http://www.changizi.com/colorface.pdf
9. Changizi MA, Rio K (2009) Harnessing color vision for visual oximetry in central cyanosis. Medical Hypotheses 74: 87-91. http://www.changizi.com/colorclinical.pdf
10. Cockburn DM (2004) Confessions of a colour blind optometrist. Clin Exp Opt 87: 350-352.
11. Cole BL (2004) The handicap of abnormal colour vision. Clin Exp Opt 87: 258-275.
12. Currier JD (1994) A two and a half colour rainbow. Arch Neurol 51: 1090-1092.
13. Dalton J (1798) Extraordinary facts relating to the vision of colours. Memoirs of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society 5: 28-45.
14. Hiroshi T (1998) Relaxation of university admission restriction for students with abnormal color vision. Japan Ophthalm 59: 123.
15. Jeffries BJ (1983) Colour blindness—its dangers and detection. Riverside Press, Cambridge, MA.
16. Little WS (1881) Experience of a red-blind physician with one ophthalmoscope. Practical advantage of colour-blindness with a case. Arch Ophthalm 10: 20-22.
17. Logan JS (1977) The disability in so-called red-green blindness. An account based on many years of self-observation. Ulster Med J 46: 41-45.
18. News & Observer. Partially blind, color blind surgeon continues to practice despite lawsuits. http://www.rightdiagnosis.com/news/partially_blind_color_blind_surgeon_continues_to_practice_despite_lawsuits.htm
19. Reiss MJ, Labowitz DA, Forman S, Wormser GP (2001) Impact of color blindness on recognition of blood in body fluids. Arch Int Med 161: 461-465.
20. Savin JA, Hunter JAA, Hepburn NC (1997) Skin Signs in Clinical Medicine. Mosby-Wolfe, London.
21. Spalding JAB (1993) The doctor with an inherited defect of colour vision: the effect on clinical skills. Br J Gen Pract 43: 32-33.
22. Spalding JAB (1995) Doctors with inherited colour vision deficiency: their difficulties in clinical work, In Cavonius CR. Ed. Proceedings of the International Research Group for Colour Vision Deficiency. Kluwer International Publishing: 483-489.
23. Spalding JAB (1997) Doctor with inherited colour vision deficiency: their difficulties with clinical work. In Colour Vision Deficiencies XIII (ed. Cavonius, C.R.) Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 483-489.
24. Spalding JAB (1999) Medical students and congenital colour vision deficiency: unnoticed problems and the cases for screening. Occup Med 49: 247-252.
25. Spalding JAB (2004) Confessions of a colour blind physician. Clin Exp Optom. 87: 344-349.
26. Spalding A, Cole B, Mir F (2012) http://colourmed.com
27. Steward SM, Cole BL (1989) What do colour vision defectives say about everyday tasks? Optom Vis Sci 66, 288-295.
28. Voke J (1980) Colour vision testing in specific industries and professions. Keller, London.
29. Wilson G (1855) Research on colour blindness with a supplement. Southerland and Knox, Edinburgh.

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ABC Nightline‘s Bill Weir talked with me about our O2Amp technology, and our Oxy-Iso’s ability to aid with colorblindness.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, a managing director of O2Amp, and the author of HARNESSED: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and THE VISION REVOLUTION. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future, and working on his next non-fiction book, FORCE OF EMOTION.

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“…the Oxy-Iso lens blew me away. All of a sudden, the numbers just appeared on the screen!” Debra Miller Arbesman. And… “Your O2Amp glasses just nearly eliminated my wife’s color blindness! It was incredible to watch her take those tests.” Samuel Arbesman, scientist, author of Half-Life of Facts, writer for WIRED

“Putting on the Oxy-Iso lenses is almost scary as it reveals clear and intentional color differences that I could not see at all. It reveals something everyone sees but me.” Luke Harrington

“I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed using your eyewear, especially the Oxy-Iso glasses. I now use them in all of my leg vein procedures . Being color blind makes finding deeper (reticular) cutaneous veins a challenge; the Oxy-Iso eyewear makes them much easier to see.” Daniel Friedmann, MD, Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery

“I found the red one [the purple Oxy-Iso] to be useful (or, at least, the one that my wife tells me is red!). It makes many colors more vivid, although what looks white without them has just the slightest tinge of pink through the lens. Compared to the other two, it’s much closer to what I have imagined that “normal” people see, and the colors match up with what I’m told they are.” Russell Belding

See more testimonials.

Buy them at Amazon.

O2Amp Last year, as our O2Amp technology got into the hands of more and more users (mainly interested in their various medical applications), we began hearing back from many color-blind folk. One of our three technologies, they told us, gave them the surprising ability to distinguish reds and greens, exactly what their color-deficiency prevented them from seeing without our eyewear. In particular, the color-enhancing benefit came from our Oxy-Iso filter, which amplifies and isolates perception of oxygenation variations. Although we didn’t design our technology with color-deficients specifically in mind, we weren’t too surprised that the Oxy-Iso may help with with red-green color-deficiency. As I have argued in my research and my earlier book, Vision Revolution, our human variety of color vision evolved — above and beyond that found in other mammals — in order to sense these oxygenation variations, allowing us to sense color-signals on the skin (including blushes, blanches, as well as sensing health). So the Oxy-Iso filter concentrates its enhancement exactly where red-green color-blind folk are deficient.

Now Professor Daniel Bor, a red-green color-blind neuroscientist at the University of Sussex and author of The Ravenous Brain, has independently carried out experiments on himself to gauge the extent to which the Oxy-Iso is an aid. The results are very encouraging, helping us better grasp its benefits, and also its limitations. Below I have reproduced his testimonial and the results of his experiment.


This first communication occurred after Dan received the set of three distinct O2Amp eyewear technology (and, note, he was not informed that it is the Oxy-Iso, and not the other two technologies, where we expected a benefit for color-deficients):

“I’ve just received a couple of special specs to attempt to reduce my colour blindness, from Mark Changizi and O2Amp. When I first put one of them on [the Oxy-Iso,], I got a shiver of excitement at how vibrant and red lips, clothes and other objects around me seemed. I’ve just done a quick 8 plate Ishihara colour blindness test. I scored 0/8 without the specs (so obviously colour blind), but 8/8 with them on (normal colour vision)! I’m pretty thrilled and can’t wait to explore more of the world with the specs over the next few days.”

We’ve found similarly thrilled responses from many other color-deficients as well (for a sample, see the quotes at the start of this piece).

Later, Dan carried out more formal experiments with the Ishihara plates…

In terms of formal tests, the Ishihara plates are a radical change. I did this online test of the 38 Ishihara plates: http://www.colblindor.com/ishihara-38-plates-cvd-test/ . Without [the Oxy-Iso], I scored almost nothing, but with the specs got all the answers correct, I think.

The Oxy-Iso appears to bring unambiguous red-green enhancement to color-deficients.

And, it even does so for the perception of oxygenation in the skin — “And definitely the glasses still work, even with me, for their original purpose of enhancing the appearance of veins,” writes Dan — meaning that the Oxy-Iso should aid the (red-green) color-blind in their perception of emotional and health states in others. Color-blind doctors have long been known to be handicapped at sensing health states, see Supplementary Table 1 here.


Our Oxy-Iso filter enhances red-green discriminations for color-deficients, but it does not do so without some compromises elsewhere in vision. We can see this clearly in Dan’s report…

“Having worn them for the evening, other parts of the spectrum definitely suffer – for instance, I thought the lime green light on the baby monitor was off when it was on. No problems seeing it when I took the specs off. But even if, having tried the specs for a few days (and especially outside in good daylight) I decide they aren’t worth permanent use, it’s been absolutely fantastic to get some temporary sense, for part of the spectrum, of what normal people see. For instance, having firmly believed that the light is green on the microwave I’ve had for 18 years, I’ve now discovered it is in fact blue.”


“My own experience with these specs is kind of similar to the formal results [see below]. Putting the specs on for the first time, I was amazed at how some colours really stood out for me. Lips usually almost seem similar to skin colour for me. But now they were so much more red and had a far greater contrast. Anything red was so much more vibrant and bright to me. Blue as well looked far more blue at times, especially if it previously had a greeny tinge to it for me. This was all very exciting. But also some colours looked a bit wrong. A yellowy-green light on my daughter’s baby monitor, easily seen without my specs, was now completely invisible. So some shades of yellow seemed to disappear with the specs, and so it was always clear to me that I had gained some part of the spectrum, but completely lost others, and on balance I kind of felt that I’d lost more than I’d gained. These wouldn’t be specs I’d wear all the time. But if I went to an art gallery or something like that, I’d definitely bring them with to wear then.”

This is important to emphasize: The Oxy-Iso filter amplifies the red-green discriminations color-deficients are lacking, but does so at the expense of their intact color perception and yellow-blue discrimination. In a sense, the Oxy-Iso spreads the color confusion more evenly around the color-wheel, rather than having it concentrated only on red-green. And, in this regard, the eyewear should not be worn when driving, because, for example, yellow lights will become nearly invisible.

[Note that our Oxy-Amp filter (see O2Amp) enhances color vision for color-normals, and does so not at the expense of other areas of color perception. Unlike the Oxy-Iso, the Oxy-Amp blocks only narrow wavelength bands of light responsible for noise coming from the oxygenation signals from skin. The Oxy-Amp provides a strict improvement to color vision for color-normals.]


The Ishihara test helps gauge one’s deficits in discriminating between reds and greens, but doesn’t tell us what’s happening to color perception more broadly. From Dan’s (and other’s) first-person experience, it is obvious that other aspects of color perception are hindered by the Oxy-Iso, as we just saw above. To get clearer on these deficits, Dan took what is called the Farnsworth-Munsell test…

“So I got one of my interns to do a proper Farnsworth-Munsell test in the lab with the physical discs, so this should be much more reliable. That was surprisingly disappointing. Without the specs I scored 116, so clearly in the colour-blind range, but with the specs I scored 108, only slightly better and still very much within the colour-blindness range. I’ve attached the graphs of my pre (no specs) and post (specs) results on this test for you to have a look at.

Remember, this test measures one’s overall deficit in color. Because the Oxy-Iso enhances red-green discrimination but at the expense of yellow-blue discriminations, it is not too surprising that the overall score here is not too much different.

The Oxy-Iso‘s ability to somewhat spread red-green color-deficient’s deficits more uniformly around the color wheel is visible in the plots of Dan’s experiment. This first plot below shows where he has trouble making color-discriminations with his naked eye, and one can see two regions opposite one another where he has trouble, characteristic of (one variety of) red-green deficiency.

naked eye

With the Oxy-Iso eyewear on, however, the characteristic red-green deficit is dampened considerably, but now there are new deficits (especially in the yellow regions), as you can see in the plot below. Compared to the plot above, the one below looks more rounded and evenly distributed.


And below are the above two plots combined into a single plot, for better comparison (courtesy Santiago Ortiz of http://moebio.com).



With the caveats and limitations in mind, the Oxy-Iso provides many red-green color-blind people with a revelatory insight into a perceptual dimension they have thus far lacked, the emotional and vitality-laced perceptual color dimension that is new to us humans and some other primates.


Some press stories on the O2Amp and colorblindness: Scientific American / Txchnologist, Slashdot, Diffusion Radio, io9, The Times UK [subscription], BBC, Discovery News, Daily Mail UK, New Scientist, Smart Planet, CBC, Unexplained Mysteries, Telegraph, Voice of Russia, Geek Chic Mama, NY Daily News, GizMag, The Argus, Elite Daily, Columbia Chronicle, Under the Gun, Today, PopSci, ABC News “This Could Be Big”, Parade I, Parade II.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, a managing director of O2Amp, and the author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future, and working on his next non-fiction book, FORCE OF EMOTION.

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O2Amp frameless lenses, allowing us to easily send the set of three technologies to those wishing to learn more.

O2Amp frameless lenses, allowing us to easily send the set of three technologies to those wishing to learn more.

Having demonstrated the O2Amp all over the world, on television, and at TED, we at O2Amp have concluded that the best way for new users to best appreciate any one of our three principal medical technologies is to experience all three. Together they amount to a perceptual toolkit for the perception of health and emotion via enhanced sensitivity to the blood under the skin, and it becomes much more apparent what each technology does once trained on the entire toolkit.

In particular, two of them (the dark purple Oxy-Iso, and the green Hemo-Iso) isolate perception to one or the other of the two dimensions our eyes can see (hemoglobin oxygenation and concentration, respectively), and the third (the light purple Oxy-Amp) only amplifies one of the dimensions (oxygenation) without hindering the other (concentration). (See this link, and also this and this.)

In this light, we have begun manufacturing a new O2Amp educational kit consisting of one of each of the three unframed lenses you see in the image above. Order just one of the technologies, and you’ll not only receive the framed version below,

Framed O2Amp eyewear, where a single complex-shaped lens is used for both eyes. The new lenses are amenable as a training kit.

Framed O2Amp eyewear, where a single complex-shaped lens is used for both eyes. The new lenses are amenable for inclusion in the new edu-kit.

but also the set of three O2Amp “edu-lenses,” helping you better train yourself on their functionality.


See also our new testimonial sheet.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future, and working on his next non-fiction book, FORCE OF EMOTION.

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You’ve heard about our O2Amp eyewear designed for viewing people — their health and emotions.

Here’s what it’s like to look through them…



Note that, by “good light is needed,” we mean outdoor lighting or a head lamp.

And…below is the five-step training sheet for those new to the technology.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future.

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The O2Amp amplifies perception of emotions, moods and health. Really.

One of the “7 Major Health Innovations of 2012 that Matter”.

And, no, they’re not merely tinted glasses. …gray (non-pink) versions coming soon.

O2Amps by 2AI

As seen in TIME Magazine, Technology Review, and WIRED, the world’s first eyewear designed to enhance the visibility of blood beneath the skin, giving doctors, nurses and other medical personnel a clearer view of vasculature, oxygenation, and trauma.

The O2Amp furnishes superior powers of clinical assessment and diagnosis, better visualizations for procedures and blood work, and is a central piece of medicine’s next-generation toolkit. Eye protection, but with an enhanced perception of health.

Comfortably wear it all day, or quickly pull it out as needed, whether it’s emergency medicine, surgery, dermatology, neonatology or elsewhere.

“It looks like my vision is compensated with Photoshop,” says neurosurgeon Dr. Kei Nomura, Chief of Center for Brain and Spine Surgery, Aoyama General Hospital.

We at 2AI Labs are excited to have our first spin-off company, O2Amps, the home of our patented eyewear and light filtering technology that amplifies one’s view of the emotions and health visible in the color and pallor of other people’s skin.

The technology comes out of my research while at Caltech on the evolution of color vision in primates, where I provided evidence that color vision evolved to sense oxygenation modulations in the hemoglobin under the skin. Once one understands the connection between our color vision and blood physiology, it’s possible to build filters that further amplify our perception of the blood and the signals it provides (a patented invention by myself and my co-director, Tim Barber).


Because color vision evolved for everyday wear, so to speak, one of our largest markets is for everyday-wear sunglasses, to enhance one’s perception of the emotion, mood and health signals we evolved to detect with our color vision. For example, typical sunglasses shade the world but also end up shading one’s connections to other people; this is exemplified by the way people tip up their sunglasses to get a better look at someone. Our technology shades the world but not the social; for the O2Amps, one sees other people better by keeping them on, rather than tipping them up.

There are also applications in security, sports, poker, and dating. (See projects in development.)

And there are applications in medicine, which is where we believe we can make the greatest impact. In fact, for medicine we have developed three different technologies, and they can be described as…

— (i) Oxy-Iso: An oxygenation-isolator that amplifies perception of oxygenation modulations under the skin (and eliminates perception of variations in the concentration of hemoglobin),

— (ii) Hemo-Iso: A trauma-detector, or hemoglobin-concentration-isolator, that amplifies perception of hemoglobin concentrations under the skin (and eliminates perception of variations in oxygenation), and

— (iii) Oxy-Amp: A general clinical enhancer, or oxygenation-amplifier, that combines the best features of the first two; it eliminates neither signal (i.e., it retains perception of both variation in hemoglobin oxygenation and concentration), and only amplifies perception of oxygenation. It provides a strict enhancement to exactly the thing primate color vision evolved to sense.

We’ve received great interest from medical professionals interested in trying out the O2Amp, and we’re moving now to get them in hospitals and among clinical staff everywhere.

We’re also moving into lighting, where entire spaces can be filled with the same filtered light. …no eyewear needed.

We believe our Oxy-Amp is the new starting point for lens blanks.

Colorblind folk have found that the Oxy-Iso provides a big help for their red-green blindness.

See the O2Amp site for all our projects in development.

Note that good light is needed for the technology, by which we mean outdoor lighting or a head lamp.

Some useful links:
– The start-up for this technology… o2amp.com
Video from Daily Planet television show, Discovery Channel.
ABC News’ This Could Be Big Television.
– Introductory video (by filmmaker Emon Hasson)… Intro video
– Some testimonials… Testimonials
More testimonials
– What one sees… Illustration, Description
– Train yourself… in five steps (text only version).
– The research article on the evolution of color vision… Journal article

Some of the press interest in o2amp.com:
MSNBC, Sciencebase, Tech Rev, Betabeat, PopSci, ExameInformatica, Smithsonian, LiveScience/Yahoo, WIRED, NZ Herald, Investors, DesignBoom, Mobiledia, Discovery, PSFK, Neoteo, Earthsky, Good, Wissenundkonzepte, Stuff, Forbes, Actualidad, Geek, Gizmodo, PSFK, Neatorama, TIME, Oprah, BBC, DarkDaily; Lost At E Minor, ZenniOptical. Prevention Magazine, Scientific American / Txchnologist, Slashdot, Diffusion Radio, io9, The Times UK [subscription], BBC, Discovery News, Daily Mail UK, New Scientist, Smart Planet, CBC, Unexplained Mysteries, Telegraph, Voice of Russia, Geek Chic Mama, NY Daily News, GizMag, The Argus, Elite Daily, Columbia Chronicle, Under the Gun, Today, PopSci,
ABC News’ This Could Be Big.

Also, listed as one of the “7 Major Health Innovations of 2012 that Matter”.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man and The Vision Revolution. He is finishing up his new book, HUMAN 3.0, a novel about our human future.

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Christine Ottery (that’s not her above) recently interviewed me about bare naked skin and the origins of color vision, and she wrote up her piece in Scientific American. Read it here.

Also, note the “Lady Gaga” connection in the piece. This is not the first time “Lady Gaga” has been all over my research — the words, not the actual woman. She also comes up in a story about my research on the origins of music, which you can read here at Gaga-galore.

Let’s keep up the pressure, and perhaps Lady Gaga will hire me as her scientific aesthetics advisor…


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books). He is working on his fourth book at the moment, tentatively titled Making Faces, about emotions and facial expressions.


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EarthSky interviewed me in late 2010 about my book, The Vision Revolution, and the segment about the evolution of bare skin and color vision was the second most popular interview in that year. Hear the interview yourself here.


Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books). He is working on his fourth book at the moment, tentatively titled Making Faces, about emotions and facial expressions.

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How do we know that your ‘red’ looks the same as my ‘red’? For all we know, your ‘red’ looks like my ‘blue’. In fact, for all we know your ‘red’ looks nothing like any of my colors at all! If colors are just internal labels, then as long as everything gets labeled, why should your brain and my brain use the same labels?

Richard Dawkins recently wrote a nice little piece on color, and along the way he asked these questions.

He also noted that not only can color labels differ in your and my brain, but perhaps the same color labels could be used in non-visual modalities of other animals. Bats, he notes, use audition for their spatial sense, and perhaps furry moths are heard as red, and leathery locusts as blue. Similarly, rhinoceroses may use olfaction for their spatial sense, and could perceive water as orange and rival male markings as gray.

However, I would suggest that most discussions of rearrangements of color qualia severely underestimate how much structure comes along with our color perceptions. Once one more fully appreciates the degree to which color qualia are linked to one another and to non-color qualia, it becomes much less plausible to single color qualia out as especially permutable.

Few of us, for example, would find it plausible to imagine that others might perceive music differently, e.g,. with pitch and loudness swapped, so that melody to them sounds like loudness modulations to me, and vice versa. Few of us would find it plausible to imagine that some other brain might perceive ‘up’ (in one’s visual field) and ‘down’ as reversed. And it is not quite so compelling to imagine that one might perceive the depth of something as the timbre of an instrument, and vice versa. And so on.

Unlike color qualia, most alternative possible qualia rearrangements do not seem plausible. Why is that? Why is color the butt of nearly all the “inverted-spectra” arguments?

The difference is that these other qualia seem to be more than just mere labels that can be permuted willy nilly. Instead, these other qualia are deeply interconnected with hosts of other aspects of our perceptions. They are part of a complex structured network of qualia, and permuting just one small part of the network destroys the original shape and structure of the network – and when the network’s shape and structure is radically changed, the original meanings of the perceptions (and the qualia) within it are obliterated.

The reason other qualia seem to be more than mere labels is that most of them have clear meanings and functions. We know what they’re for, and how they plug in to the rest of our network of qualia. For color, on the other hand, we have historically been largely blind to what colors are for, and how they functionally integrate with the rest of our perception. In the absence of knowing how to plug colors in to the rest of our qualia, they do seem much more rearrangeable.

But we’re beginning to know more about what colors are for, and as we learn more, color qualia are becoming more and more like other qualia in their non-permutability. Let’s see why.

First, even before describing some of the new insights on color vision, I note that most conversations about color qualia don’t seem to account for what has long been known about colors. Colors are not a set of distinct crayons with no connections to one another. Instead, colors are part of a three dimensional space of colors, a space having certain well-known features. The space is spanned by a red-green axis, a yellow-blue axis, and a black-white axis. These three axes have opponent colors at opposite ends, and these extreme ends of the axes are pure or primary (i.e., not being built via a combination of other colors). All the colors we know of are a perceptual combination of these three axes. For example, burnt orange is built from roughly equal parts yellow and red, and is on the darker side of the black-white dimension.

To perceive colors like I do requires, at a minimum, having the same color space as I do. To perceive ‘red’ without having (its opposite) ‘green’ also as part of one’s color space is impossible, just as perceiving ‘light’ would be impossible without also having ‘dark’. And to perceive orange without having both red-green and yellow-blue axes is impossible, because orange is a perceptual mix of red and yellow.

And that’s just the bare beginnings of the structure of colors. Colors are not only intricately connected to one another in a space, but are linked to many other aspects of our mental life, including other sensory modalities (e.g., a “red sounding trumpet”) and emotions.

In fact, in my research I have provided evidence that our primate variety color vision evolved for seeing the color changes occurring on our faces and other naked spots. Our primate color vision is peculiar in its cone sensitivities (with the M and L cones having sensitivities that are uncomfortably close), but these peculiar cone sensitivities are just right for sensing the peculiar spectral modulations hemoglobin in the skin undergoes as the blood varies in oxygenation. Also, the naked-faced and naked-rumped primates are the ones with color vision; those primates without color vision have your typical mammalian furry face.

In essence, I have argued elsewhere that our color-vision eyes are oximeters like those found in hospital rooms, giving us the power to read off the emotions, moods and health of those around us.

On this new view of the origins of color vision, color is far from an arbitrary permutable labeling system. Our three-dimensional color space is steeped with links to emotions, moods, and physiological states, as well as potentially to behaviors. For example, purple regions within color space are not merely a perceptual mix of blue and red, but are also steeped in physiological, emotional and behavioral implications – in this case perhaps of a livid male ready to punch you.

Furthermore, these associations are not arbitrary or learned. Rather, these links from color to our broader mental life are part of the very meanings of color – they are what color vision evolved for.

The entirety of these links is, I submit, what determines the qualitative feel of the colors we see. If you and I largely share the same “perceptual network,” then we’ll have the same qualia. And if some other animal perceives some three-dimensional color space that differs radically in how it links to the other aspects of its mental life, then it won’t be like our color space. …its perceptions will be an orange of a different color.


This first appeared July 16, 2010, at Psychology Today.

Mark Changizi is Professor of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella Books) and the upcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man (Benbella Books).

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