More specifically, O2Amps, a new vision filtration system, could let me see your blood in vivid detail–right through your skin. And with that power, says vision researcher and glasses developer Mark Changizi, comes the ability to, “enhance one’s perception of the emotion, mood and health signals” of those around us.
“That means people wearing shades don’t need to miss seeing the blush of embarrassment or excitement on the face of a guy or girl on a first date. Similarly, a poker player hiding behind a pair of sunglasses could still spot a red flush creeping up the neck of an opponent ― a telltale sign that could clinch victory as surely as a five-card flush in the game.” writes Jeremy Hsu.
The system, which is currently being manufactured by Changizi’s 2AI Labs, comes in three different builds: The first amplifies the look of deoxygenated blood in your veins giving them a vivid greenish hue, while muting the appearance of arteries. Another makes the oxygenated blood in your arteries stand out bright red, but dulls the look of your veins. The third type, which Changizi said took two years to build, brightens your arteries with no dampening effect on the rest of your vision.
According to David Zax at Technology Review,
“Changizi studied the evolution of color vision in primates; his research showed that color vision evolved to reveal the fluctuations of oxygen levels in hemoglobin just beneath the skin. These provide all sorts of social signals. A simple and intuitive example is seeing someone turn bright red from embarrassment, but there are all sorts of more subtle signals that we may only be semi-conscious of, but that nonetheless were beneficial to the species that passed color vision on to us.”
Aside from the lofty goal of designing glasses to overcome failing social skills, Changizi is pushing to see the glasses used in medicine, writes Clay Dillow.
“O2Amps are reportedly already in testing at two hospitals, where the lenses make a patient’s veins appear to glow, revealing the vasculature beneath the skin. The glasses could also help medical personnel detect trauma via hemoglobin concentrations beneath the skin–simply by looking a patient over a nurse or doctor could quickly see where trauma has occurred and where it is heaviest.”
More from Smithsonian.com: