Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Does my dog appreciate my KindleFire display?

I read another interesting blog post from Jeff Yurek [1]. In his post, he compares the displays for the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7, and the Kindle Fire HD. Unlike the scores of other reviewers, he doesn't expound on the size or number of pixels. Jeff looks at the color. Specifically, he has checked out the size of the gamut - the total range of colors that can be displayed.

His conclusion is that the Nexus and Kindle have bigger gamuts than the iPad. This is important, because what self-respecting guy doesn't want a tablet that has a big gamut? After all, women realize that it's not about the number of pixels you have. It's what colors you can get with them.

Here is an image that I have remorselessly stolen from his post. You can see that the iPad is somewhat lacking in the saturation of red and green, but where it really falls down is in the blue. The iPad just does not have as saturated of a blue. I was quite pleased with this, since I own a Kindle Fire, and secretly have a bit of iPad envy going on. My wife has an iPad.

Comparison of the gamuts of three tablets

This all got me thinking. Naturally, it got me thinking about whether my dog, Truffle, can appreciate the extra gamut of the Kindle Fire.

Truffle the Teddy Bear Guy

Colorblindness and dogs

One of our dogs, Scrabble, has been featured previously in my blog. He played the Shih-Tzu in the Mathematical Misnomers post, and he played the dog in the painting in the Card Shuffling post. It's about time that Truffle gets mentioned.

Everyone has told me that dogs are colorblind, but I wanted to find out myself. I just heard about an app for color blindness testing from EnChroma. (Thank you, Dr. Bob!) So I thought I would give it a try. This app is a version of the Ishahara colorblindness test. I downloaded it for my Kindle and administered the test to Truflle to check to see if he really is colorblind. He licked the screen. I'm not sure I know what that means.

Screenshot of the colorblindness test app showing an orange cross sign

The competition

My wife and I both have very good color discrimination. I took the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test [2], and had a nearly perfect score. Now, my wife (who is not competitive at all) took my performance as a challenge. She took the test and proceeded to get a perfect score. But, she's not competitive. Honest. Just ask her. [3]

My wife has an iPad, and I have a Kindle Fire. The EnChroma app is free for both of these. And as I have said, my wife is not competitive. Can you see where this is going?

We played the game color test, a total of 16 times. I took it four times on the iPad, and four times on the Kindle. She did the same. Before running the test, I made sure that none of the usual experimental safeguards were in place. I did not normalize the whitepoint of the two displays. I did not set us each down in a neutral room with low lighting. I did not test either contestant experimental subject for any psychotropic drugs that might effect the outcome of the experiment. In short, I wanted to make sure that I had an out if I didn't do well.

The table below shows the results. Note that the subjects were randomly assigned names to protect the identities and marital harmony. Note that EnChroma gives you 5 points for every incorrect score and there are 60 opportunities to screw up. A score of 0 is perfect. A total score of 300 is perfectly awful.

Person Device Protan Deutan Tritan Total
Ollie iPad 5 10 5 20
Ollie iPad 0 0 0 0
Ollie iPad 5 0 0 5
Ollie iPad 0 5 0 5
Ollie Kindle 5 10 0 15
Ollie Kindle 0 0 0 0
Ollie Kindle 0 5 0 5
Ollie Kindle 5 5 10 20
Lena iPad 10 5 5 20
Lena iPad 5 10 0 15
Lena iPad 5 5 0 10
Lena iPad 0 5 5 10
Lena Kindle 10 10 10 30
Lena Kindle 0 0 0 0
Lena Kindle 15 5 0 20
Lena Kindle 0 5 10 15

Whoever is named "Ollie" attained the astoundingly remarkable feat of an absolutely perfect score an incredible 20% of the time. Ollie's wife only did that once throughout the entire experiment. To be fair, Ollie's wife also complained that the Kindle Fire touch screen is not as responsive as the iPad. Twice, this caused an error. She wanted to make sure that she had an out as well. [4]

When comparing the Kindle Fire and the iPad, we have average total scores of 13.13 for the Kindle and 10.63 for the iPad. By my reckoning, this is just on the edge of being statistically significant. But, allowing for the two reported mis-keys in the test, the difference becomes insignificant.

My summary: Based on this awesomely scientific experiment, I conclude that the difference in the color gamuts of the displays does not cause color acuity problems.  

One more acknowledgement

I have acknowledged two people who inspired this blog post, Jeff, and Bob. I should mention one other.

I just had a nice long chat with an old friend of mine by the name of Steve the Tall Guy [5]. (I should make it clear that this Steve is different from "Steve the British Guy", who provided me with inspiration for my blog post on the Monty Hall problem.)

Anyway, I was talking with Steve the Tall Guy and he pointed me to a very interesting podcast about color from RadioLab. The podcast is about the subjectivity of color. It makes the point that color is not strictly some inherent property of an object, but rather, it is partly something that is manufactured somewhere after a photon enters our eye.

Illustration from RadioLab website showing 
some weird kinda Pink Floyd thing that I wish I could do with my eye

They gave color blindness as one simple example of this subjectivity. Someone who is colorblind may perceive two objects as being the same color, whereas I may see those two objects as being a different color, in much the same way that there are some rare individuals who don't think my wife is beautiful. I don't understand them, but something happens to the photons after they go in their eyes. As far as I can tell, my two dogs think my wife is beautiful even through the poor sods are colorblind. 

The podcast has given me grist for all kinds of future blog posts. One subject I wish to bring up is why we have three color sensors in our eyes, and why the mantis shrimp has 17. I just happen to be reading a book that proposes an answer. I'll finish the book and get back to you.

[1] I mentioned a blog post of his before in my blog post "Red is the color of..." I enjoy his posts.

[2] For some odd reason the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Test has 85 tiles. What do I know? I do math. I can't count.

[3] The Scrabble app for my Kindle Fire is currently broken, so I am not able to get routinely trounced by my very-noncompetitive wife. She is not at all competitive about Scrabble. Did I mention our first dog's name is Scrabble? I hope they take their time making sure that the app is thoroughly debugged before they release an update. I mean... a few years of testing would be good.

[4] This is a legitimate complaint about the Kindle Fire. It often appears to not be listening. I get that a lot.

[5] I'm not making this up. This guy actually calls himself "the Tall Guy".  Someone has to be pretty full of himself to select a moniker like that! John the Math Guy would never do that. 


  1. Glad you found the podcast interesting. I would, however, like to make one correction. I believe that Lena is married to Ole, not Ollie.

  2. Steve, Thank you for correcting my most embarrassing mistake!!! :)