Microsoft Binoculars App
Tom Overton and Tingting Zhu of Microsoft app Color Binoculars on Jan. 21, 2016. Overton is color blind and the main force behind development of the Color Binoculars app, which is aimed at helping the color blind see the world naturally. Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures/Microsoft

Microsoft has developed an app that will help colorblind people see the world better. The Color Binoculars iOS app will help them differentiate between different wavelengths of color by using the iPhone's camera.

The app works by imparting deeper tones to colors and replaces color combinations, which are difficult to look at for colorblind people with easier to look at combinations. For example, it replaces red and green with pink and green.

"We read about special lenses that helped colorblind people distinguish colors, however, that’s expensive. So we thought, let’s code something on a phone for free,” Tingting Zhu, a Microsoft engineer who helped develop the project, said.

The force majeure behind the project is Tim Overton, a Microsoft software engineer who works on Cortana experiences. He also happens to be colorblind.

"Anything with red or green messes me up, It’s not so terrible, but it does affect you. For instance, fall leaves don’t look any different for me than other leaves. They look like they always do. It takes a lot of color out of my life – metaphorically, that is,” he said.

Being colorblind is a condition in which people cannot distinguish between the different wavelengths of light that make up colors. Color Binoculars solves this problem by using filters and the iPhone's camera to help users differentiate between colors. The app's name is a metaphor for seeing the world “more zoomed in.” It doesn't save any videos or photos, and is rather aimed at providing the user, a more colorful view of his/her surroundings. The app will be able to support screen sizes across the iPhone range of devices.

Overton and Zhu worked together to develop the app, which was conceived at the 2015 Microsoft Hackathon, the annual Microsoft employee event. It was developed under the aegis of Garage, the company's employee innovation space that helps its global workforce pitch and work on innovative projects.