Seeing the World in Colour: Spectral Edge

Seeing the World in Colour

Spectral Edge, a start up funded by the Rainbow Seed Fund, has created Eyeteq, a technology that could make dramatic changes for the one in ten of the male population that has problems with colour vision, from education and business, to entertainment and gaming.

Spectral Edge’s key technology uses mathematical models to create and manage images that are easier and clearer for people with colour blindness to see, but that are also preferred by people with normal vision. This is what makes the company’s output different from that of its competitors – Eyeteq creates images that people with colour blindness can watch alongside their friends or family with standard colour vision.


An Introduction to Colour Blindness

Colour blindness (colour vision deficiency) is more common in men than in women – it affects around one in 12 men and one in 200 women worldwide. In most people who are colour blind, it’s a genetic condition inherited from their mother, though it can result from diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

The most common form of colour blindness is red-green (deuteranomaly and protanomaly), and means that people find it hard to tell the difference between reds, greens, browns and oranges, and may also confuse different types of blues and purples. In this type of colour vision, blues and yellows will stand out.


Why Does Colour Blindness Matter?

The impact of colour and colour blindness has been very much overlooked. Colour blindness excludes people from certain jobs, for example makes life more difficult for scientists, and can be dangerous – imagine not being able to see when food has gone off, when the lights have changed, or when skin has become sunburned.

Colour blindness can also affect education and learning, from counting coloured blocks to reading text on educational websites. This is particularly difficult for shy children and adolescents who do not want to point out in public that they cannot read coloured text or work out what is meant in largely red or green diagrams.

As the world becomes more dependent on the internet, colour and colour differentiation will become more important for business, education and leisure. A great many design-heavy websites use a lot of colour, in text, images and buttons, and this can make them virtually impossible to read or navigate.


Why is Facebook Blue?

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is red-green colour blind, and so he chose blue as the dominant colour for the site. As he said to the New Yorker, ” blue is the richest colour for me – I can see all of blue”.


Looking for Colour Carity: How Does Eyeteq Work? Gamers, who are mostly male and so are at higher risk, are also affected – for example, the game Battlefield 3 uses orange enemies and green squad members. Some games developers are using icons rather than colours.

Spectral Edge’s Eyeteq technology enhances images and video to allow people with colour blindness to see details that they would not be able to see otherwise, without affecting the view for people with ‘normal sight’. This is unlike other existing technologies such as daltonisation, which, while they allow people with colour blindness to see details, make images unattractive for other people. The technology modifies colours based on mathematical perception models, remapping colours and enhancing colour rendering to improve visibility discrimination for people with colour vision deficiencies, and minimising the effect (or even improving the images) for non-colour blind people. This is known as a perceptually-weighted regularised joint optimisation methodology operating on local scale.

In December, Spectral Edge announced that its Eyeteq image enhancement technology was now available for integration into consumer set top boxes (STBs). This would improve the differentiation between red and green television pictures (particularly important in sports, cookery and nature programmes), without affecting the images for people with normal colour vision. An Eyeteq app, for iOS or Android, simulates the effect of the technology. The technology could in the future also be used for people looking at the internet, or for gamers.

According to Christopher Cytera, managing director, Spectral Edge: “Our Eyeteq technology has been proven to enhance the still image viewing experience for colour-blind people, and we are now extending this to TV and video content. Our trials have proved the concept, and it is now ready for integration into prime time consumer technology in order to transform how colour-blind people, and their families, watch TV.”


About Spectral Edge

Spectral Edge is based at Norwich Research Park, in East Anglia, and is a spinout from research carried out at the University of East Anglia’s Colour and Vision Group. The aim of the company, founded in February 2011, is to take the university’s research in image fusion, colour perception-based image processing and image enhancement into practical and commercial applications.