DanKam app clears up color blind confusion
By Paul Ridden
January 4, 2011
Best known for discovering security flaws in online systems, Dan Kaminsky has recently announced the development and release of a smartphone app to help with color blindness. DanKam takes the colors that cause viewing problems and applies filters to make them visible. The system is currently optimized for the most common form of color vision deficiency, although users are encouraged to customize and tweak the augmented reality app to try and find settings that work best for them.
Kaminsky says that the inspiration for his year-long development project was a friend's problem seeing the green hues on the skin of one of the characters in the latest Star Trek film. He originally tried altering the green vs red colorspace, but found that his friend then lost sight of the red in the image, which led him to discover that a lot of folks who suffer from color blindness belong to a group known as anomalous trichromats. These people can still see most colors, but the green colors get confused with red.
Kaminsky's thinking was that although there are relatively few hues registered by our visual system, the slight photoreceptor shift towards red causes hue determination problems. He started experimenting with one of the most common cylindrical representations of points in the RGB color model – Hue, Saturation and Value. Leaving the last two alone, he concentrated his attention on the Hue.
What the resulting DanKam augmented reality app attempts to do is to clean up the colorspace of the image or video signal so that those suffering from viewing problems have colors revealed to them.
Users are able to tweak the color wheel to personalize the effect, and the input can be zoomed for a closer look at particularly confusing zones. Kaminsky says that he "really can't imagine how this technology will be used" but sees matching clothes, correctly parsing status lights on gadgets, and managing parking structures as immediate possibilities.
"In the long run, helping pilots and truckers and even SCADA engineers might be nice," says the designer. "There's a lot of systems with warning lights, and they aren't always obvious to the color blind."
DanKam is available for Android devices and the iPhone, and costs US$3.