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Have color blind friends or family? These glasses may fix their vision

What if you didn’t know the color of your daughter’s eyes? Or – on a less emotional note – that your pants clashed tragically with your shirt? Thousands of people have that problem every day – they’re color blind. Today, EnChroma announced a partnership with Frameri to bring color into people’s lives.

Imagine seeing color for the first time after living a life with dull or jumbled colors. The most common color blindness, or Color Vision Deficiency makes greens and reds look the same, and about one in 12 men are affected. With EnChroma lenses Christmas will never look monochrome again.

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Color blindness is caused by an increased spectral overlap of the red and green photopigments (the light absorbing molecules in the retinal cone cells of the eye), and is usually genetic. One class of photopigments (or cones) handles mostly green light (M-cones), another mostly red (L-cones), and another mostly blue (S-cones). In a person with red-green color blindness, one class is out of sync with the others, absorbing too much of another class’s light. EnChroma’s lenses work by filtering class or cone signals with a multi-notch filter, separating the overlapping signals.

EnChroma lenses can correct the way light is received, and even enhance colors for people who aren’t color blind.

This works for the vast majority of color-blindness cases. Some people are 100 percent color-blind, in which case there’s no way to differentiate colors from one another by filtering them through an external lens. But for more than 80 percent of color-blind people — those who have otherwise healthy eyes and normally-wired brains for color processing – EnChroma lenses can correct the way light is received, which is the core of the problem. The lenses even enhance colors for people who aren’t color blind.

EnChroma is the child of Dr. Don McPherson, the company’s Chief Science Officer. While working on a lens for laser eye-surgery protection, he noticed certain changes in color appearance resulted from lens formulas he invented. After a NIH research study and clinical trials showed that these filters could help the color blind, Dr. McPherson teamed up with Andy Schmeder out of Berkeley. With Schmeder’s mathematics, perceptual-psychology, and computer-modeling expertise combined with McPherson’s glass-science experience, they set out to change how people see the world. About 10 years of research and development later, EnChroma came into its own.

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There have been other corrective options for the color blind dating back to rudimentary lenses with different tints in the 1850s, but EnChroma is far more advanced. Still, at a glance, they look the same as any pair of dark sunglasses. There are three versions of EnChroma CX (color-correction) lenses: the standard sunglass (CX-14), the medium lens (CX-25), and the indoor, night-time, or computer lenses (CX-65). The CX-65 has a little bit of a bluish tint and doesn’t work as well with Protan sight deficiencies (difficulties seeing red), but the others are indistinguishable from regular lenses at a glance. It’s only when you put them on that you notice the difference.

That’s where Frameri comes in. Frameri, a young company that launched in 2014, makes beautiful boutique frames with interchangeable lenses. They’re constructed from a Mazzucchelli cellulose acetate (a natural plastic), made in Italy. This means they have way more give than standard plastic glasses and can hold their shape. Check out the video below to see them in action.

At the moment there are four collections: Aerial, Tidal, Terra, and the newly released Prose. Lenses are interchangeable within each frame collections. Even if you’re not color blind, Frameri’s ability to swap lenses is pretty darn cool. You can change from sunglasses to indoor glasses without the fade, and without mimicking Dwayne Wade’s hilarious nod to Dwayne Wayne.

A pair of Frameri glasses with one set of non-prescription EnChroma lenses starts at $425; it’s $625 and $725 for two or three lens sets respectively, plus $100 for a set of Frameri frames. That’s a small price to pay for quite literally seeing the world in a whole new light.