Trending on the internet right now is this low resolution image of a dress. The reason it’s spreading faster than spam is because some people see a blue and black dress and others see a white and gold dress. In order for us to function as a species we depend on a consistent and mutual understanding of the world around us. But if half of us perceive a physical object one way and the other half sees it another way what does this say about our shared reality?

As a digital graphics professional I’ve been very curious why this difference in color perception has been occurring. I believe there are some physical conditions concerning the mechanics of the eye itself that could be behind this phenomenon but I also believe the nature of perception itself is partially responsible for the difference. To see if there was any merit to my idea I decided to deconstruct the image in Photoshop to see what I could learn about this bizarre situation.

The first thing I would like you to assume is that you are not looking at a dress. After all you really just looking at a grid of pixels on a screen. If we take the image apart can we determine the true colors of the dress in the image? Of course we can produce a list of colors for each pixel in the image but that amounts to a list of numbers with no instinctual meaning to our optic nerve. But taking the image appart might change your understanding of what you see.

STEP ONE: Eliminate background of image

Because we already know this is a dress in a store I wanted to try removing the dress from its background to prevent the extra information effecting what you believe you ae seeing. I cut the dress out of the image and set the background to 50% gray: the most neutral tone in the spectrum.

STEP TWO -- Separate contested areas:

Next I used Photoshop’s magic wand tool to isolate the “lighter” areas of the dress from the “darker” areas. Hold a card up to block your view of one of these separated images. Does this change what colors you see? Does it make it easier to decide?

STEP THREE -- Invert the colors of each separation:

In these examples I simply inverted the colors of each separation like a negative. Notice how the formerly “lighter” image on the left now shares similar hues to the original “darker” image. The same holds true for the formerly “darker” image on the right. That is because these two hues are opposite on the color wheel. Sometimes oppsite colors can alter our ability to see the colors as they might be if they were isolated from one another.

STEP FOUR – survey of colors in selected areas

Going back to the non-inverted, separated samples I made a list of 256 colors present in each version. From these palates draw your own conclusions about which colors you are seeing, but notice how the “lighter” version has almost as much gray as it does blue and “darker” version has very little black or gold. We might see blue, black, gold, and white but in reality there is very little of any of these colors present.

STEP FOUR – survey of colors in selected areas

Going back to the non-inverted, separated samples I made a list of 256 colors present in each version. From these palates draw your own conclusions about which colors you are seeing, but notice how the “lighter” version has almost as much gray as it does blue and “darker” version has very little black or gold. We might see blue, black, gold, and white but in reality there is very little of any of these colors present.

CONCLUSION:

Everything you perceive is defined by both experiences and associations. You cannot perceive grouped objects (like colors) empirically without removing the group from their immediate circumstances. But since you cannot remove objects from the universe you cannot study anything with pure empiricism.  Furthermore the act of observation itself effects the results. Each viewing of the dress image is an individual instance of a perception-event but each subsequent instance will be effected by the previous instances. Additionaly your associations with the contept of “a dress” amounts to a model of all dresses that exists inside your mind. You can not help but compare this image of a dress to all the other experiences you have under the heading of “dresses”. In conclusion you can never know what colors the dress, or any dress, really are.

There I was, sitting in the chair at a local eye-glass and contacts company, trying my damnedest to get my new contacts in. As a dude, we’re not anywhere near as often playing around with our eyeballs. You ladies have been putting pencils near your orbits since about a year or two before your moms allowed it, don’t lie.

But me? Well, I couldn’t stop blinking the little bastards straight off my finger and away from their intended targets. Eventually, the woman who was “helping” me got frustrated, tipped my head back and put the damned thing in herself in about two seconds. Fully-extended arm, I’m lucky I’m not blind.

For the rest of you, contacts are a must-wear. But they come at a cost to your health: dry eye syndrome is quite common amongst contact lens wearers, in part because contacts can get in the way of the eye’s natural ability to keep itself lubricated. This has to do with the way the contact is formed to sit on your eye, a design process which has until now been done largely as guess-work.

But researchers at RIT aim to change all that with a new set of mathematical algorithms born out of the wizardry known to many as fluid dynamics:

Ross, who researched fluid mechanics with Eastman Kodak Co. before becoming a professor at RIT, says that the research is a new, purely mathematical approach to looking at the tear film of the eye. “We initially envisioned the lens floating in a sea of tear film, when in fact, this is not the case,” Ross says. “The lenses are 100 to 200 microns thick, while the tear film is only 5 microns thick.”

Maki and Ross hope that Bausch & Lomb will eventually be able to implement their research into new design processes for their contact lenses.

So in short, your new contact lenses could very soon make your eyes a whole lot less itchy to wear. Which is a great comfort, especially to those one or two of you who have accidentally fallen asleep with them in…

If you had to chose between blindness and deafness, which would it be? Well, if you’re like 60% of respondents in a recent Bausch and Lomb study on the subject of eye sight, you’d choose your vision.

Hard to argue with that choice: humans generally rely on sight more than other senses to navigate and understand our world. In fact, its the ability to see over long distances that made walking erect the evolutionarily-preferred trait. Otherwise, its just clunky, unstable and frankly weird looking.

The study shows that people also associate getting older with losing vision, but that less people are taking the care of their vision that they aught to for long-term health. Read the rest of the survey results below:

New Survey Shows That People Don’t Want to Live a Moment of Life with Poor Eye Sight : Bausch + Lomb.

As we age, the lens of our eyes can become cloudy, a condition called cataract. By age 80, about fifty percent of Americans are treated as having cataracts and by age 95, that number gets a lot closer to 100%. Most of the time, surgery is not needed.

But when surgery is needed, Bausch and Lomb have developed a new femtosecond laser process for the most delicate part of the surgery, making recovery even easier. Because the surgery is laser accurate, precise shapes can be cut into the lens, ensuring that equally-accurate replacements can be applied.

Link to press release.