The much-touted EnChroma glasses don’t help colorblind users see new colors; they merely let the colorblind see the same colors in a different way, according to a new study published in Optics Express by scientists at Spain’s University of Granada. The scientists liken the effect to the colored glasses often used by hunters to increase the contrast in their surroundings so they can better pick up on certain visual stimuli.
EnChroma makes glasses that are designed to help with a specific form of color blindness, one in which a hybrid of red- and green-detecting receptors confuse the differences between colors. The receptors act by blocking out the wavelengths that the hybrids are most sensitive to, but they don’t do anything for other forms of color blindness.
So the new results don’t come as a surprise to University of Washington color-vision expert Jay Neitz, who has long been skeptical about what the glasses actually accomplish. “You can’t add colors by taking away some wavelengths [of light], which is all the glasses do,” he says.