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A few news stories have been circulating around about glasses that "cure" some forms of color-blindness:

Do these really work? My understanding of colorblindness is that the color-seeing cones in the eye don't exist or don't work for certain colors, so I don't understand how that could possibly be fixed by glasses...

  • I don't see how anyone could be moved to tears after being able to tell the difference between red and green (as described in that Today article). I'm mildly red-green colorblind and the only hindrance I have is when I shoot teammates in video games. – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 27 '16 at 17:41
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As mentioned in an excellent Ars Technica article, they do treat (but not cure) one of the most common types of color-blindness (moderate red-green color blindness), but not all types of color-blindness. The type of people that these glasses help with are people whose red and green cones overlap more than they do for the typical human. These glasses "block the thin cluster of wavelengths detected by the excessively overlapping portion of … red- and green-sensitive cones" allowing the eyes to better distinguish colors.

In short:

  • In a typical red-green color-blind individual, they still have all 3 types of cones, but the red and green cones overlap too much, making it difficult to distinguish between red and green.
  • These glasses block the region of the spectrum where red and green overlap, making it easier to distinguish red from green.

In addition to the Ars Technica article, there is also a survey run by Blake Porter that reports that:

A whoping[sic] 90% of EnChroma users say they would recommend the glasses to others with color blindness. This does not come as much of a surprised because 55% reported EnChroma lenses changed their life and another 36% reported they “somewhat” changed their lives. 10% reported they did not. Furthermore, when asked if they increased their quality of life, 64% said “yes”, 31% “somewhat”, and only 5% “no”.

Here is another review from MIT Technology review that sums up the problem these glasses are trying to solve succinctly:

Color-blindness is often a result of a malfunctioning cone that causes wavelengths to overlap even more, resulting in poor color discrimination.

To help make it clear how much red and green cones overlap in their perceptions, here is an image showing how our three cones respond to frequencies of light for typical color vision: Typical color vision cone responses

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    The Ars Technica article appears to only report on one user's experience, and has links to similar anecdotal evidence. I didn't see any mention of larger-scale studies. I'm not sure that this is sufficient to resolve the question "Do they really work?" – Nate Eldredge Jun 26 '16 at 20:43
  • @NateEldredge, you are correct that it does not reference a larger-scale study (although it does report on more than a single user's experience). I'll add additional references. – Ben Hocking Jun 26 '16 at 21:08
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    After reading a few more articles, it seems that color-blind people still fail color-blind tests while using these glasses. So, I still strongly doubt the validity of these glasses. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 27 '16 at 3:28
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft, could you post links to those articles so that the community can evaluate them? – Ben Hocking Jun 28 '16 at 1:46

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