You’ve seen red/green and red/blue glasses around and you may be wondering what all the hype is about. Do they actually fix a lazy eye (amblyopia) and will they make your eyes straight and fix strabismus? What are the possibilities and how do they work. Will they make the world look 3D? I’ve been using them as part of my Vision Therapy for the last 2 years, let me answer your questions and even give you some ideas for how to use them!
So, What are red/green glasses and how do they work? Red/Green glasses or anaglyph glasses are a tool used to build amazing visual skills like acuity, binocular coordination and more. Pairing them with specific red/green activities allows for control over what each eye can see. Red/green glasses paired with anti-suppression activities are super effective at targeting and strengthening a weak eye in the case of amblyopia or strabismus. Other types of activities build and strengthen fusion and stereopsis by training the eyes to work and coordinate together.
Now that you know how amazing they are, let’s take a quick look at how they actually work. I will also go into different exercises that work with anaglyph glasses and how they work to treat specific conditions.
If you want to try them out, you can order this cute pair from my shop! The design allows them to be reversed and they are super comfortable and light weight.
How Do Red/Green or Red/Blue Anaglyph Glasses Work?
A few months ago I happened upon a YouTube video where a young man put on a pair of red/blue glasses and suddenly he was jumping away from apparent 3D trees and bushes and exclaiming over everything that he was seeing because it looked 3D. It is the first and only time I’ve given a thumbs down on YouTube.
It was just completely made up, that is 1000% NOT what these types of glasses do. Looking at normal life with these glasses on will just add a red, blue, or mixed hue to what you would normally see. The magic comes when you combine them with specific activities tailored for anaglyph glasses.
Generally speaking, most activities are designed for the red lens to be over the right eye, but I always switch back and forth, just for fun. I am using red/blue glasses to demonstrate, but red/green work exactly the same.
With the red lens on the right eye and the blue lens on the left eye, this is what each eye would see:
Everything the right eye sees, looks red, everything with the left eye looks blue.
Now let’s focus on just the whiteboard. Notice that the whiteboard through the red lens turns red, which makes all the red words blend into the background and essentially disappear. This means that only the LEFT eye can see what is RED and only the RIGHT eye can see what is BLUE.
Apply this idea to a maze where the maze is red and you are using a blue crayon to complete it. The right eye (red lens) would see what you are tracing with the blue crayon, the left eye (blue lens) would see the actual red maze. Crazy, right?!?
The only way to actually have success would be to use both eyes simultaneously and coordinate what they are seeing.
For a person with normal, binocular vision, this isn’t a problem. It creates a little confusion, but the brain quickly adjusts and meshes the images from both eyes.
For those with binocular vision problems like amblyopia or strabismus, this exercise can range from challenging to impossible because the eyes don’t know how to work together or there is one eye that is extremely weak.
If you aren’t sure if your eyes work together and you don’t have red/green glasses you can take the free quiz I made, “Do My Eyes Work Together?” It has several tests that can help you figure out if your eyes are coordinating together.
Which Colors Cancel with Red/Green or Red/Blue glasses?
When I create my own exercises, I typically use a light blue and a yellow color with a white background. Red will work too, but I just prefer yellow. Using a white background saves on ink and the blue and yellow colors cancel almost perfectly which is a huge plus.
Many of the official exercises sold by optometry companies use a combination of red on a white background with black on a red background, like the deck of cards shown below. These options cancel super well and work great if you want to use a ton of red ink.
There are unlimited options for activities that can be used for red/green glasses and each has a visual skill that is being emphasized. Let’s go through a few of these exercises and how they work.
If you struggle with these types of exercises, make sure to open your peripheral vision, it makes ALL the difference. You can read this article to learn more or become a master of peripheral vision in the course I created for people exactly like you. Learn more HERE.
What Types of Exercises Can Be Done With Anaglyph Glasses?
Suppression, in vision, is when only one eye is working and the other eye is shut off (or suppressed). In order for the brain to learn to use both eyes together for 3D vision and depth you must first “break suppression” or wake up the eye that isn’t working, hence anti-suppression.
A huge piece of that puzzle is awareness. Many adults and children are suppressing one of their eyes and they have no idea. It took me 32 years to finally learn that only one of my eyes was turned on at a time (and oh what a shocking and emotional day that was).
When both eyes are not pointing in the same direction or working equally, the brain sometimes suppresses one eye in order to avoid double vision. While this is a pretty ingenious adaptation, it’s not particularly useful if you’re trying to use both eyes together.
The red/green glasses suddenly give the wearer feedback about which eye is on and which eye is off. Once that awareness is gained, attempts can be made at keeping both eyes turned on at the same time. This skill takes practice and requires baby steps.
Some of the most basic anti-suppression activities involve doing normal activities with red and/or green items that will cancel with one eye. For example, doing a crossword puzzle with a blue pen, playing card games with a special deck designed to be used with red/green glasses, playing catch with a red/green ball, writing with a red/blue crayon and a million other activities.
The main idea of these activities is to have both eye turned on and working together simultaneously.
I designed some anti-suppression slides that take things to the next level. You can buy them over here for just $5. I was having a hard time finding anti-suppression activities that offered a mid range of difficulty. I needed something to bridge from the easy activities to the more challenging ones so I went ahead and created it and made it available to all of you.
I also included a ton of insider tips that will help take you to the next level with these types of activities.
There are also quite a few apps that work with red/blue glasses. I have articles reviewing my favorites from 2019 and 2021 where you can read all about the different options. AmblyoPlay is another app that is more in depth that offers some great options that help with anti-suppression.
If you are in vision therapy, your optometrist will send you home with all sorts of fun activities. I’ve seen paper dolls, tracing, and so many other creative ideas for using red/blue glasses to wake up those eyes.
I have several word shape puzzles available in my shop that are great for anti-suppression or you can just buy the font and make your own, check it out over here!
Anytime I am having a problem with suppression sneaking it’s way back into my life, my optometrist has me wear the glasses to help keep me aware. Try using red/blue glasses with the brock string, SOOOOO helpful!
This is SO simple but effective and challenging. Luster is what is seen when looking at something white with red/blue glasses. If the eyes are working together, the paper (or wall or window…) won’t look red or blue, there will be a combination that is called luster.
The eyes can’t just both be turned on at the same time, they must actually fuse their images together.
As a strabismic, I first see blue, then red, then they switch back and forth. As I continue to relax and look softly at the white paper, I begin to see both red and blue simultaneously, almost as if the room is divided in half and each hemisphere is one color.
As I have worked on this, I’ve progressed to seeing the two sides mix and the “luster” forms. It can appear to be a mix of the two colors, other times it almost looses the color and turns a white or grey.
I have tried this looking at windows, pages in a book, faces on a TV or just plain ole’ white pieces of paper taped to the wall. It really helps create awareness about what my eyes are doing and has improved my fusion, big time!
My favorite way to use this is with my mirror overlap exercises, I talk about that in this post.
Tranaglyphs and Stereo Activities
These are exercises that involve two similar images, one that cancels with red, the other cancels with blue/green. When viewed through the red/blue glasses by someone with great binocular vision, these slightly different images fuse and become 3D.
It is a brilliant way to transform a 2D picture into 3D.
If you have red/blue glasses, put them on and look at the images below. Does one of the gems appear to be closer to you and the other further? Logically, we know that the images are on the screen, but with practice and training, the brain will learn to see depth, and the illusion of the gems floating will come.
This can be used for complex 3D movies as well, 3D technology is so amazing! Polarized glasses are being used more and more for movies because there is no color distortion like there is with red and blue glasses. But if you search “anaglyph movie” on YouTube, several options come up. Be careful, some of them are not appropriate for kids (or 35 year old moms).
These red/green activities are designed to help develop and improve stereopsis and depth.
There are SO MANY different Tranaglyphs that your optometrist can buy to help your brain practice seeing depth.
I have created “stereo slides” that use this technique to help practice seeing with depth. I needed something that made it easier to see increased depth so I made it, you can check it out over here. I did a few simple things to help my monocular cues (how I see depth with one eye) blend in to my binocular cues (how we see depth with both eyes together).
I have only scratched the surface on the myriad of different exercises that can be used with red and blue/green glasses. The only limit is your own creativity. Any game, activity or exercise that involves colors that cancel with the glasses is going to make a great exercise for keeping your eyes coordinating.
Some focus more on anti-suppression, others are more advanced and require both eyes to fuse and see depth. Sometimes adding these glasses to a normal activity like the brock string, can help the user have awareness about which eye is on/off.
What are your favorite exercises?
Will Anaglyph Glasses Fix a Lazy Eye?
Alone, wearing these glasses is not going to “fix” a lazy eye or strabismus, but they can really help and are definitely an important part of any vision therapy program!
I definitely believe that having a developmental optometrist is a VITAL piece of the puzzle. They will guide you through exercises and help you have success!
Research is being done and proving that using anaglyph glasses paired with red/green activities and video games improves acuity much more quickly than patching alone which is huge for those with amblyopia!
Researchers had one group patch while playing a video game. The other group played the same game using red/green glasses for ¼ the time each day and their vision improved more than twice as much in the same period of time. I’m no researcher and I haven’t studied all the ins and outs of this research, but it makes sense to me. Here is the study if you want to read more.
This, of course, applies to any type of activity using red/green glasses where both eyes must be active. I would argue that free-space type activities that also involve the vestibular system are going to be even better!
With my personal journey with strabismus, red/green glasses have been there for a lot of the ride. I am mostly using them for luster and stereo activities that are more peripheral because I have ARC (anomalous retinal correspondence). ARC means that my eyes don’t have the same “center” so doing a ton of red/green anti-suppression activities without the peripheral first can lead to some bad double vision, not to mention that it Is really hard/impossible for me to get things to line up. This isn’t the case for every person with strabismus, but it is a complicating factor for sure.
Once my peripheral stereo is amazing we will start moving towards more central activities and hopefully things will just fall into place.
Either way, anaglyph glasses have been SO important for helping me gain awareness about which eye is working. That instant feedback helps me learn how to use both eyes equally and allows for small quick adjustments.
I have activities almost weekly that involve the red/green glasses and in the last two years I have gone from complete suppression of my right eye to seeing depth in activities and real life. It is changing my life.
Was it just the glasses? No. But they have been so helpful and have made a huge difference for me in my treatment.
Anaglyph glasses are a simple, yet effective tool in vision therapy that will take your vision to the next level. There are a HUGE variety of activities that can be done with them, but they also just allow the patient to have awareness about their vision.
If you are wanting to learn more or investigate vision therapy, go to THIS LINK and I will help you find the perfect office for you for free.
Are red/green or red/blue Glasses Better? It doesn’t matter too much as long as the colors are able to cancel well. Optometrists generally use the red/green options because they interact with the retina in a different way. Green and red are the same distance from yellow on the spectrum which makes the brightness appear more equal. Green is considered brighter than blue so some people prefer green. For me, both work the exact same and I don’t notice a difference at all when I’m doing my exercises. I make them blue because I can find blue lenses that cancel and I haven’t been able to find green.
How Long Does Vision Therapy Take? For simple diagnosis, sometimes 15 visits is enough, but more people are in the 25-35 visit range. For complicated cases of strabismus or TBI expect at least 1-2 years.