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3D Technology: Now Screening Eyes Everywhere

by Dr. Tod R. Davis

Recently, the new 3D technology has been receiving a significant amount of attention, especially with the option of 3D at the theaters, a new Nintendo 3DS, classroom use of 3D technology, and even 3D home televisions. The American Optometric Association, with the explosion of 3D technology, has issued a public health warning article titled “3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well.” The purpose of the article is to educate the public about people who are uncomfortable with watching 3D, as there have been an increasing number of these reports.

What does it mean to be uncomfortable with viewing 3D on a screen? In most cases, this is a strong sign of a binocular vision disorder, such as convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency is when the eyes have issues working together at close range, also known as an eye teaming problem, where the eyes drift out despite trying to do near work. In an effort to keep the eyes working, the individual has to: make an extra effort to bring the eyes together (which causes fatigue, headache, etc.); cover one eye; or, the brain will actually suppress the vision in one eye, all to avoid swimming letters and double vision.

Some people have said that if watching 3D movies bothers an individual, than that individual should simply not look at 3D screens. However, the reality is that an issue with viewing 3D properly is strong evidence that there’s a problem with the viewer’s binocular vision.

There has always been 3D for people: The real world and binocular vision work together to create the same effect. In fact, 3D viewing technologies enable us to screen for vision disorders in a new and very efficient way: When someone with a vision disorder watches a program or movie, or plays a game which utilizes this technology, they suffer from the “3D’s of Viewing 3D: dizziness, discomfort and lack of depth.” This is also known as 3D Vision Syndrome, and it reveals vision disorders such as convergence insufficiency.

Here is the good news: binocular conditions such as convergence insufficiency are treatable. This is where vision therapy comes in. Vision therapy can help a child (or an adult, even) with eye teaming issues. People that struggle to do work at close range – or that struggle to watch 3D screens – don’t have to continue to struggle, and through the work of vision therapy they can retrain the eyes to work together properly, giving them both excellent binocular vision in real life, and the ability to watch 3D screens.

In addition, viewing anything in 3D, be it a video game, movie, or television program, has no worse impact on the viewer than the 2D equivalent. Certainly, you should limit the viewing of television, especially for children; yet, this is true whether the television is in 2D or 3D. This makes 3D technology a boon to schools, homes, and theaters as more and more people are “tested” for vision disorders (such as convergence insufficiency) in the name of education and fun!

I maintain that for these reasons, the increase in 3D technology is a good thing. The use of the 3D technology has been, and will continue to be, extremely helpful in the diagnosis of vision disorders such as convergence insufficiency.

Sources & Resources:
“3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well” editorial by Dominick M. Maino, OD, Med, FAAO, FCOVD-A

“3-D Vision Syndrome…linked to ‘ADD-like’ behaviors in children” by D. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

The American Optometric Associations’s page on 3D

“3D in the Classroom: See Well, Learn Well” by the American Optometric Association

A site dedicated to 3D Vision & Eye Health by the American Optometric Association

“What is Convergence Insufficiency?” by the Optometrists Network

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