Humans may be the smartest animals on the planet (well, depends on who you ask), but they certainly don’t have the best eyesight. Turns out even goldfish can see colors on more wavelengths than we can.
In an effort to improve our sight, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed lenses that allow humans to see the difference between what are called “metamers,” or what at first look like two objects of the same color but are actually on different visual wavelengths. They do so by splitting the short wavelength cone in the eye. The result is that wearers of the lenses can distinguish between metamers, expanding human vision from three channels to four, just like goldfish.
Currently, humans only see in red, green and blue wavelengths. That’s why televisions only need to output those three colors in order to simulate what we see naturally. These lenses, in short, add another channel to that list.
Why, you ask? Bradley Gundlach, lead student on the project, told Digital Trends an interesting explanation.
“The potential uses for the device are really anytime somebody is trying to distinguish similarly colored objects. Therefore camouflage detection, quality control of produce. and detecting counterfeit currency are all possible applications that would benefit from enhanced color perception. It might also be possible in the future to apply the technology to individuals with color deficiencies, restoring some if not all of their color sensitivity compared to typical humans.”
Other uses, of course may be for humans whose sight has been compromised by genetics, injury, or disease. All in all, it’s a positive if not at least fascinating development toward our future android selves.