Friday, February 27, 2015

Is it white and gold or black and blue? #TheDress debate goes viral

The Internet was abuzz on Friday over a dress that might be white and gold, or black and blue.

It all started with a Tumblr post by 21-year-old Scottish singer Caitlin McNeill, with the caption "guys please help me - is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can't agree and we are freaking the f**k out."

When you first saw this, which colors did you actually see? Is the dress white or gold, or black and blue? Google says it's the latter.

When you try searching Google for this image, you will notice most of the dresses in the "Visually similar images" were in various shades of blue. (Try it yourself!)

A post of the official Google Search blog actually says Search by Image uses "computer vision technology" and "adds new techniques and functionality that optimize the experience for desktop."

Our eyes' "cones" has something to do with it

Andy Rexford, a student at Saginaw Valley State University, had something to say about the dress' colors. In a tweet, he gave his shot on how our eyes see colors:

"Your eyes have retinas, the things that let you interpret color. There's rods, round things, and cones that stick out, which is what gives your eye a textured appearance in the colored part. The "cones" see color. The "rods" see shade, like black, white and grey. Cones only work when enough light passes through. So while I see the fabric as white, someone else may see it as blue because my cones aren't responding to the dim lighting. My rods see it as a shade (white).

There's three cones: small, medium and large. They are blue sensitive, green sensitive, and red sensitive.

As for the black bit (which I see as gold), it's called additive mixing. Blue, green and red are the main colors for additive mixing. This is where it gets really tricky. Subtractive mixing, such as with paint, means the more colors you add the murkier it gets until its black. ADDITIVE mixing, when you add the three colors the eyes see best, red, green and blue, (not to be confused with primary colors red, blue and yellow) it makes pure white.

—Blue and Black: In conclusion, your retina's cones are more high functioning, and this results in your eyes doing subtractive mixing.

—White and Gold: our eyes don't work well in dim light so our retinas rods see white, and this makes them less light sensitive, causing additive mixing, (that of green and red), to make gold."

What science says

Jay Neitz, a color-vision researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Wired that the actual physiology of your eye might come into play with how you perceive the dress.

An individual's lens, which is part of the eyeball, changes over the course of one's lifespan, according to Neitz. Individuals are less sensitive to blue light when they are older. This could explain why older netizens are seeing white and gold. This theory however cannot be proved yet due to the absence of hard-core data relating to age and perceptions regarding the dress.

Moreover, how the dress was captured on the camera is another thing to consider. The way you see things and its colors can change depending on the picture's lighting, or different conditions of illumination.

"Since photo is taken in lighting with a blue hue, it may be causing the blues in the dress to reflect a white color. And while the dress may in fact be blue and black, the lighting does, for some viewers, make it appear to be white and gold," said Time.

However, experts agree that the "real" color of the dress leaves to the people who actually saw it in person. A digital image is subject to many variables, including screen contrast and brightness, lighting method, the type of screen material, among others.

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