Display Considerations for Night and Low-Illumination Viewing

RafaƂ Mantiuk, Allan G. Rempel, Wolfgang Heidrich

The University of British Columbia

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An inadequately designed display viewed in the dark can easily cause dazzling glare and affect our night vision. In this paper we test a display design in which the spectral light emission is selected to reduce the impact of the display on night vision performance while at the same time ensuring good display legibility. We use long-wavelength light (red) that is easily visible to daylight vision photoreceptors (cones) but almost invisible to night vision photoreceptors (rods). We verify rod-cone separation in a psychophysical experiment, in which we measure contrast detection in the presence of a colored source of glare. In a separate user study we measure the range of display brightness settings that provide good legibility and are not distracting under low ambient lighting. Our results can serve as a guidelines for designing the displays that change their color scheme at low ambient light levels.

Discussion and Conclusions

In this paper we showed that a display that emits long-wavelength light (red to amber) offers several advantages over green and blue displays that are used under low ambient light. A red-colored display affects visual performance due to disability glare the least as it is the least likely to cause dazzling or eye aversion, even if emitting light at high photopic luminance levels. Other studies indicate that red colored letters are the most legible at low luminance levels. Our second experiment showed that a display in dark environments must emit at least low photopic luminance levels (~20 cd/m^2) to be comfortable to read, and higher luminance (~40 cd/m^2) if displayed content, such as maps, requires distinguishing between several brightness levels.


This work was supported by Dolby under the Dolby Research Chair in Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. We would also like to thank Dolby Canada for use of their facilities in conducting the studies.
Last modified: Mon Jul 27 16:02:30 PDT 2009