In today’s interview I get to speak with blue light filter software expert, Daniel Georgiev from Iris Tech, about the benefits of blue light blocking software on eye health.
Daniel is very passionate about the using blue light filter software to help protect our eyes.
He is a programmer who is keen to protect his own vision from the negative effects that artificial light emitted from digital screens can do.
In the interview you’ll hear the backstory behind why Daniel created an alternative to the popular f.lux software called Iris. He explains his journey of having perfect vision to needing to wear glasses after working on computers for work.
Daniel shares some great information about how digital screens work. This includes the difference between laptop & desktop computer screens vs smartphones and tablet screens.
We not only talk about the type of light emitted, but the effect of screen brightness, flicker rate and font rendering on eye strain. I was surprised to hear what we should do with the brightness levels of the screen.
If you know someone who is interested in protecting their eyes when using a computer screen then this episode is for them!
I enjoyed this interview as I have been using blue light filter software called F.Lux software for years after learning about why we need to filter out blue light especially at night. However, since using Daniels’ new Iris software I love the extra features he has built into it. Better then Flux for me.
Special thanks to Daniel for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!
LISTENERS BONUS: Daniel kindly gave me a couple of hundred copies of his pro version of the software for followers of the blog and podcast. These will run out fast so first come first serve opportunity here. Go to the Iris website here, then choose version you want to download, when asked for the activation code enter team-biohackerslab & enjoy unlocked pro version for free. If you aren’t a lucky one to have the coupon code work then still support Daniel and buy the full version for just $10 like I did – it’s worth it.
Show Notes with Timestamps
Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:
Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.
[00:35] – Introducing Daniel, a software developer and inventor of Iris, software designed to protect the eyes from digital screen emissions.
[01:10] – Daniel started to have eye problems after long hours of working on two big screens to develop games for a software company. After researching all he could about screens and eye health he started using programmes such as f.lux and Night Shift. Eventually, wanting more control over the features, he decided to create Iris.
[03:45] – f.lux did everything automatically and wasn’t responsive to him as a user, Daniel wanted manual features and decided to solve his own problem by creating Iris.
[05:26] – Talking about the blue light emitted from our digital screens such as computer monitors, tv screens, laptops, smart phones etc… The important thing to note is light from these screens is not full spectrum sunlight and can have adverse effects to our health. Daniel explains how the photoreceptor melanopsin, in our eye, stops the secretion of the sleep hormone, melatonin when it detects blue light, UV or other light of this wavelength. Light with the shortest wavelengths reaches deeply into our eyes, which can cause macular degeneration and other problems. (ref)
[06:33] – The main feature of Iris is brightness, which Daniel believes to be a bigger problem than blue light in modern monitors. In his TED talk, Daniel explains how the flicker rate, PWM (pulse-width modulation) causes problems for our eyes. He feels the ability to manipulate this is the major benefit of using Iris.
[07:35] – The cheapest way to control the brightness of a monitor is to change the flicker rate of the backlight. Daniel explains how our brain doesn’t perceive this flicker and how it causes strain to our eyes; by lowering screen brightness we reduce the flicker rate, actually making the eye-strain worse.
[09:03] – Rather than controlling the flicker rate Iris brightness works in a different way; by moving the white point, and doing things with the video card. This feature makes Iris software unique.
[09:36] – Daniel explains how the expensive ‘eye friendly’ monitors use DC dimming not PWM to adjust brightness, so it allows you to lower the brightness without causing the problems with the flicker rate. For the PWM monitors however, it’s better to leave the brightness on full regardless of the time of day and turn the lights on in the room to match the brightness of the monitor; the monitor should look like a book, not like a light source.
[11:38] – What about the light bulbs. Should we be using the low blue light light bulbs? Daniel explains the standard light bulb is fine to use as it doesn’t emit much blue light. LED lights flicker and emit more blue light.
[14:00] – Most monitors use PWM, most phones however, use DC dimming. Perhaps due to the bigger matrix of the screen. Daniel explains that LEDs will burn if they are constantly turned on, to lower the heat and extend their life they are turned on and off, causing this flicker. The manufacturers also use low frequency of the backlight to extend the life of the monitor lowering the flicker rate.
[15:40] – The E-ink screen, like the one used on a Kindle, is the best for eye health. Daniel did an interesting computer hack converting his Kindle into a monitor and is hoping to create E-ink monitors in the future. These screens are slow, and the majority of people prefer glossy screens, which are actually worse than the matte screens they want to play games and watch movies, this is where the demand is.
[17:13] – There are films you place over your phone screens or monitors to turn the glossy screen matte, but Daniel doesn’t use this himself as he prefers to use matte screens. Films that limit blue exposure are not as effective as Iris as they don’t reduce green light, which also has some degree of blue light
[19:25] – Which devices can we install Iris on? Laptop and desktop versions are his focus, it is available on Mac OS X, Windows and Linux. He has slider versions, without the full features, for Android and iOS but because Apple has restrictions on allowing this type of software, Iris needs to be reinstalled every week on iOS. David explains why he avoids mobile phones: one because they are restricted and secondly because they have some native solutions e.g. iOS has Night Shift and Android has Night Light.
[24:05] – f.lux was the first to address the issues with sleep and blue light and they created a great app for iOS. Now all the tech giants have started implementing something like this and copied these ideas.
[25:02] – Iris is easy to use and install and doesn’t require an internet connection to function; internet can be used to set the location but location (or time) can also be set manually.
[28:22] – What are the different types of settings? The Health mode setting is recommended by some doctors for new users to adapt quickly to the software, it offers small blue light reductions during the day and big reductions during the night; Sleep mode reduces all blue light; Reading mode eliminates pixel flicker making the screen more grayscale, if you don’t need colours this is the best mode for health; Programming mode inverts the colour for programmers; Biohacker mode lowers the emitted light and removes all the blue light; Sunglasses mode is new and only reduces the brightness; Movie mode makes the screen brighter and helps with watching dark scenes in movies; Overlay mode is for old monitors that don’t support some of the other features. For more info see help manual online.
[34:24] – The Pro version allows for even more manipulation of settings. There is a timer option, similar to Pomodoro, which can be set to alert you at chosen time intervals. Daniel announces a special present for all our listeners! He will be offering 100 activation codes for Pro versions of Iris and 100 for Iris mini. (see above for the activation code)
[36:50] – Gary talks about the blue blocking glasses he wears throughout the day and how this programme is just another tool people can use to help protected their eye health as well as sleep regulation.
[37:17] – There are different versions of Iris: the free Iris application, Iris Pro, Iris Mini, Iris Mini Pro, Iris Micro, Iris OS, Iris FLOSS designed to suit the needs of different people. Iris has UI (user interface) which uses some CPU, Iris mini is a tray icon only and doesn’t use any CPU and is more user-friendly with less options, Iris micro has command line for programmers and Iris FLOSS is an open-source version for Linux.
[39:33] – In the Pro version of Iris there are a numerous hidden features, which have been added due to various requests from users. Daniel has made these available and by entering a comment or a ‘magic spell’ users can activate them; they remain hidden however to avoid confusion. There are blue buttons which allow us to see the hidden features and the ‘magic spells’ which activate them. While these are the most advanced aspects of the software. Daniel tries to keep an up to date manual and keep things as simple as possible for most people to use.
[42:37] – A tip for people who work with colours and photoshop etc… is to use colour pausers, which stop Iris when photoshop is launched so that it doesn’t conflict with colours alternatively, the overlay feature allows you to select only a part of the screen which to apply blue light reduction to while the rest remains unaffected (currently only available for Windows). Another interesting tip is that the artificial intelligence feature can be enabled to detect the room brightness using the camera, but Daniel explains this is disabled by default because it can be really creepy to have your software using your camera by default! It is also good to know that nobody will watch you as it is all local.
[45:11] – Fonts of the letters on our screens are blurred, this is something called font muting. The font muting technology on Windows is called ClearType and while it’s better than the Mac font muting technology – Mac users expect everything to appear as beautiful as possible so letters appear more blurry. Daniel explains that these blurry letters are damaging and causing strain on our eyes. A scratchy, dirty screen might be better for us and the best fonts are simple with rough crispy edges. Pro version of Iris has a setting for this, but it is not default.
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