Science Archives - GUNNAR Computer Eyewear

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Synthesizing the Sense of Synesthesia

Many of us take our vision and perception of the world for granted on a daily basis. We assume that everyone is privy to the same sights and sounds and interpretations of sense in the same manner. This is just not true. While GUNNAR Optiks generally enhance the visual experience, especially in a digital landscape, there is so much more to the sense of sight that even we cannot begin to dream of covering it all with amber tinted lenses.

Take Synesthesia for example. This neurological condition is not well defined, as only recently research has begun to re-address this interesting sensory and cognitive jigsaw puzzle. One of the most common forms of Synesthesia is that of grapheme. This is where the synesthetes (a person with Synesthesia) perceives letters and numbers as randomly colored. There are also other caveats of the condition that cause distance to be applied to different subsets of numbers and letters, or other spatial misalignment that simply doesn’t exist. There are also those that hear sounds in relation to visual motion. These are involuntary and uncontrolled reactions to reality and perception. There is no cure, but then it seems that perhaps an alternate view of perceptive reality might be preferred over actual reality sometimes. The designers of the game Child of Eden felt the same way.

Child of Eden, published by Ubisoft, by designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi is a game that claims to engage sound, vision and touch in a seamless manner. You can check out the trailer for the game here, and see for yourself the imagery that is presented. It is a little over the top, it does take place in the future and within a computer network I believe. Based on the colors and interaction, this is probably game where you’d want to switch from classic Amber tint GUNNARs to Crystalline, just to get the feel of the true color. A lot of it is on dark backgrounds, so I wouldn’t worry too much about eye strain. Tetsuya Mizuguchi is the pioneer in these types of games, having been responsible for Rez an early version of Child of Eden.

This article in Psychology Today discusses Rez, Child of Eden as well as a board game that also seeks to emulate Synesthesia. Yet what the article lacks is a reason why one would want to smell the music (though smelling is a sense that video games cannot emulate – yet). While Synesthesia is interesting, and provides a few advantages in the visual sense, it is still a condition which causes disorienting and false perceptions of the world around you. So basically, Tetsuya Mizuguchi wants to show you what it would be like if you were on LSD — something that also causes you to smell colors and disassociate senses.

Though we are always looking for different ways to perceive the world. With GUNNAR glasses, you can at least perceive the world without worrying about fatigue headaches and computer vision syndrome, but you can’t see numbers as colors. While the games mentioned above do offer some insight into the world of people with this condition, they don’t really emulate it. Rather, they only use our perception of color, shapes and sound. A person with Synesthesia would have a totally different experience, and the games most likely don’t emulate what they are experiencing as there are so many variables to each person’s particular instance of Synesthesia. There hasn’t been enough research to date to be able to pinpoint exact conditional variables to properly emulate it for those of us with “normal” perception. Hence the LSD reference, which actually makes more sense. Rather than experiencing true Synesthesia, our perceptions are merely tested with a layman level of synthetic Synesthesia.

In the end we’ll truly never know what it is like to have Synesthesia and deal with altered perceptions on a daily basis. You can rest assured though, that GUNNAR Optiks is here to help with the visual perceptions in your daily life that we consider normal, whether they are or not. And if you have Synesthesia, you might want to consider a pair, if not just to make the color of those numbers a bit sharper.

Image: Ubisoft

Ergonomics Will Keep You Gaming into the Future

by Curtis Silver

Ergonomics. Over the years the term hasn’t changed the meaning, it means the same today that it did in the 1950s when it was fully accepted as a term and practice. However, it was not until the 2000’s that colleges began to offer it as a course of study towards a masters degree, though its history dates back to ancient Greece. Ergonomics, of course, is the study of designing equipment that fits the human body in physical and cognitive connotations. Where once ergonomics was simply thought to be just keyboard trays and wrist rests, like everything else in the past few decades, it has evolved significantly.

Now ergonomics has become a course study in not only psychology but physiology & behavioral sciences as well. It has become an area of medical concern, a workers compensation standard and something most employers take seriously and are generally willing to pay for if you can demonstrate a need (yes, you can convince your boss to buy you a pair of Gunnars for work.) Ergonomics has become more than just physical comfort in the office but has branched out into many other industries. Though it is in the office environment that we think of ergonomics the most, and while innovations are being made there, they are also being made in gaming ergonomics as well, with a bit of crossover.

Take for instance the concept of the mouse glove. For years this has been an idea of the scientific & engineering community. Probably after seeing Tom Cruise move screens around in Minority Report. Actually, that was the motivation for students at MIT back in 2010 who developed a wireless mouse glove that cost under $100 to produce. There is even earlier research at North Carolina State University’s college of engineering in which students devised a glove that controlled computer operations with sensors in the fingertips. Now there is a company called Bellco that is marketing a wireless air mouse glove to the community at large.

So would a wireless mouse glove actually alleviate wrist pain? Common wrist and hand problems range from carpal tunnel to tendonitis due to keeping the hand and wrist at odd angles during the day. A mouse glove would not require you to keep your hand on the desk, you could basically be in a relaxed position all day long. So why isn’t something like this catching on? I’m guessing that it has to do with control. Our movements are human, and when there is exact work to be done on computers (such as graphic design) more precise movements are needed, which when the hand is steadied on a desk or wrist rest is possible. A floating hand relies on too many other active muscles to keep steady. Think about the difference between using a tripod for a camera and not using one.

Keeping with hand ergonomics but moving over to gaming there is the Avenger Xbox 360 Adapter by N-Control. Not billed as an ergonomic device, rather a fully customizable one, the Avenger is about as ergonomic as you can get with a console gaming controller. It snaps on to the Xbox 360 controller and you can move the buttons & triggers around to fit not only your hand but your gaming style as well. Something to think about for those with itchy trigger fingers, you can also adjust the response time. For someone like me who has broken every finger at some point in life and some don’t work as they should, this is a fantastic device. Often I get hand cramps when gaming (as many gamers do) and being able to adjust the controller to an ergonomically sound position based on the layout & comfort of my hand is pretty sweet.

The thing is, gamers are one group that might not think about ergonomics mostly because of their age range. A lot of gamers are young, in their teens or college-aged and haven’t yet experienced the ongoing pain associated with mistreated joints & tendons. Gamers put themselves in a position to get anything from back & shoulder pain to neck pain to eye strain. Though here at Gunnar, the solution to eye strain is pretty clear. If there is one ergonomic item that has changed my life for the better, it’s my MLG Phantoms. But even solving eye strain with a sweet pair of Gunnars isn’t going to clear up severe neck issues from sitting at a bad angle and not having proper back support.

Thankfully, there are plenty of awesome gaming chairs in the market. My favorite has to be this one, the PCE Ultimate Gaming Station & Work Space. All you would need to do is install a Mountain Dew fountain and you’d be good to go. The point is, like many gaming chairs, it sets the body at an angle that doesn’t put undue pressure on the joints and tendons. So basically, you can game longer. Also, for those gamers that prefer some more “human” games every once in a while, there is this.

Of course, what would any market segment be without the totally off the wall stuff? Take for instance the Adapta Mouse. Designer Ryo Yoshimi has created a functional and ergonomically sound (I suppose) mouse that looks like a centerpiece at a very neo-classical wine bar. Then there is the DataHand, a throwback from 1990 that use a radial menu to select letters, basically replacing your movement across the keyboard with a finger twitch. Obviously, while very smart ergonomics, it didn’t catch on. Another great design that was flawed as far as marketing is the Combimouse.Come to think of it, the name might have been a bit flawed as well. The keyboard split in two to adapt to a more natural hand resting position, and the mouse was also incorporated into the keyboard and split in two. Probably would take a bit of getting used to.

When we sit down at our desks, or in front of our gaming console we don’t always consider the damage we could be doing to our bodies by not simply sitting in an ergonomically sound position. As you can see, there are plenty of great products on the market to assist with that so that we can keep gaming for years to come without having to take a baggie full of meds every morning. Ergonomics has become more than just a gel thing on your desk you end up destroying with paper-clips, it has become something we all need to think about as we go through our day to day lives. The long term effects of things such as tendon damage and eye strain are something we need to take seriously now.

For some great ergonomic supplies, after you get yourself a pair of Gunnars, check out ergopro.com.