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Seeing through the eyes of the colorblind

23.05.2011
Toyohashi Tech researcher receives coveted Japanese government award for the invention of unique color filter–glasses. Allowing those with normal color vision to experience colorblindness, the glasses enable understanding of problems arising for people with color vision deficiency.

Shigeki Nakauchi of Toyohashi University of Technology’s (Toyohashi Tech) Department of Computer Science and Engineering has been awarded the 2011 Award for Science and Technology (Development Category) by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for the ‘Development of a filter to understand what the world looks like to color deficient people for use in Color Universal Design (CUD).’

This prestigious award is given to individuals for innovative research that is of practical use in society and improves the everyday lives and socioeconomic conditions of people worldwide.

Five percent of Japanese men and 200 million people worldwide are colorblind—so called color vision deficiency—and have difficulty in distinguishing specific color combinations. In order that the colorblind and others with normal color vision do not confuse colors, there is an urgent need for CUD (color universal design). However, people with normal vision and who are not color blind do not have an intuitive understanding of the difficulties posed by colorblindness, a situation that presents a barrier to familiarizing and promoting the CUD concept.

In this the world’s first development, a filter that modifies the optical spectrum to reproduce colorblind characteristics was developed for commercial use in 2007 (http://www.variantor.com, see link below). Using this filter, which comes in both eye glasses and glass loupes, non–colorblind people can experience the perceptual color confusion experienced by the colorblind due to the lack of one type of cone photoreceptor out of the three that support color vision.

Through the experience of simulated but highly realistic color blindness, it is possible to find problematic color schemes in almost any situation using the filter as a CUD tool. Currently the filter is being widely used for color combination tests in industry and in public facilities for printing material, public signs, and textbooks, including those used at CUD enlightenment seminars.

Nakauchi’s invention makes a significant contribution to the familiarization and promotion of CUD by enabling all to experience the diversity of color vision, and to realize problematic color combinations.

Media contacts:

Ms. Junko Sugaya and Mr. Masashi Yamaguchi
International Affairs Division
TEL: (+81) 0532-44-2042
FAX: (+81)0532-44-6557
E-mail: ryugaku(at)office.tut.ac.jp
About Toyohashi University of Technology:
An introduction by Yoshiyuki Sakaki, President, Toyohashi University of Technology.

Founded in 1976, Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan, is a vibrant modern national institute with research activities reflecting the modern era of advanced electronics, engineering, and life sciences.

Toyohashi University of Technology is located at the heart of Toyohashi City, in eastern Aichi Prefecture, with a population of 380,000. The Pacific Ocean is only a short bicycle ride away from the campus, and with the spectacular sights of the surrounding mountains, Toyohashi has a mild climate, low cost of living and is within easy reach of Nagoya, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe by Shinkansen.

Our University is distinct among national science and engineering-orientated universities in a number of ways. Notably, about 80% of our 2,200 students are from 5-year technical colleges, with the majority continuing onto graduate school.

We also have several unique educational programs. For example, our so-called 'spiral-up curriculum' was devised to address the individual needs of our undergraduate and graduate students as they progress in their studies.

Needless to say a fundamental understanding basic theories underlying science and engineering is important, but at Toyohashi Tech we also emphasize practical training--an important part of which consists of a two-month internship that we organize with companies both in Japan and overseas. Notably, many of our 250 faculty members are from industry, which enables us to maintain a close relationship with industry.

Approximately 10 percent of Toyohashi Tech students are from overseas, with the majority coming from Asia. This reflects the success of the University's overseas outreach programs, especially the International Center for Engineering Education Development (ICCEED) program set up in 2001 to promote international student exchange. In the ICCEED program we work closely with the Japanese government to support the development of education programs in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Some of our overseas-graduates from this program go on to work in local manufacturing companies like Toyota, Hitachi and Toshiba; well known and representative Japanese companies.

Our University has eight research centers focusing on areas including intelligent sensing, robotics, agrotechnology and photonic information storage. And, in spite of our relatively short history, Toyohashi Tech has been internationally recognized for the development of innovative and cutting-edge technology, and major contributions to industry. In particular, Toyohashi Tech researchers are widely acknowledged for their contributions to the field of electronics including sensor microchips and ultra-high capacity memory devices. Notably, this expertise was a critical factor behind the selection of Toyohashi Tech for one of the highly competitive Global Center of Excellence (G-COE) awards by MEXT.

With a view to enhancing our research infrastructure, in October 2010 we launched the Electronics-Inspired Interdisciplinary Research Institute (EIIRIS). One of the major goals of this institute is to address global issues in the life sciences, environmental change, and aging societies. To achieve these goals this we have assembled a team of ambitious young researchers from diverse fields to collaborate on pioneering new frontiers in science such as brain/neuro-electronics.

As well as literally working alongside each other in the same new dedicated building, the researchers also collaborate with the well established research institutes at the University and use the facilities at the LSI fabrication facility connected to the new building, forming a huge, open-access research complex furnished with cutting-edge equipment.

Finally, I am a molecular biologist and based on my experience of participating in international research programs--such as the Human Genome Project--I am convinced that solutions to global problems will only be found by close collaboration between researchers from different fields, that is, interdisciplinary research. This belief was the inspiration for EIIRIS, which is our contribution to global efforts to tackle difficult issues.

We welcome talented and ambitious people from the global science and engineering community to join us in advancing knowledge by an interdisciplinary approach to both education and research.

Adarsh Sandhu | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.tut.ac.jp/english/

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