New problem emerges for 3D TV – not everyone can see it


3D TV is ramping up. ESPN just this week announced that its 3D network will debut next month, and, of course, lots of people in television were excited by the new 3D TV equipment displayed at the recent NAB Show in Las Vegas. The commercial potential of 3D TV is believed by many to be great, although not yet quantified.

RBR-TVBR Executive Editor Jack Messmer recently weighed in with an observation that 3D TV poses a problem for people (like him) who can’t see much of anything without prescription glasses, so they have to wear two sets of glasses at once to watch 3D TV. Now we learn that there is another vision problem associated with 3D TV and movies – some people simply can’t see the 3D images.

“Quite simply, people who have even a small vision misalignment or those who don’t have equal vision in both eyes may not be able to see 3-D images properly,” said Dr. Leonard Press, chair of the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Committee. “Individuals with unstable focusing or difficulty in coordinating vision with other senses can experience headaches and other uncomfortable side effects from viewing 3-D movies.”

According to the American Optometric Association, anywhere from three to nine million people have problems with binocular vision prohibiting them from watching 3-D TV and movies. Binocular vision is the ability to align both eyes accurately on an object and combine the visual images from each eye into a single, in-depth perception. The problem comes from fatigue caused when 3-D technology forces the eyes to make adjustments to focus simultaneously on images that are near and far away.

Symptoms indicating a potential problem with the ability to see images in 3-D vary from person to person. According to the results of the AOA’s American Eye-Q survey, the majority of individuals who suffer from 3-D vision complications most often experience headaches (13%), blurred vision (12%) and dizziness (11%).

The AOA recommends seeing a doctor of optometry for further evaluation if consumers answer yes to any of the following questions:

  —  Is the 3-D viewing experience not as vivid as it is for others watching the same picture?
  —  Do you experience eyestrain or headaches during or after viewing?
  —  Do you feel nauseous or dizzy during or after viewing?
  —  Are you more comfortable viewing 2-D TV or movies instead of 3-D TV/movies?
  —  Is it difficult for your eyes to adjust back to normal after watching 3-D TV/movies?

“Watching 3-D programming can unmask issues such as lazy eye, convergence insufficiency, poor focusing skills and other visual problems consumers might not have previously known existed,” said Dr. Dominick Maino, a Professor of Pediatrics/Binocular Vision at the Illinois College of Optometry’s Illinois Eye Institute. “Research shows that up to 56 percent of those ages 18 to 38 have symptoms related to a binocular vision problem. It is important to know that studies also show optometric vision therapy can help alleviate these problems and make the experience of watching these movies more enjoyable.”

Optometric vision therapy is a sequence of therapeutic procedures individually prescribed and monitored by an optometrist to develop efficient visual skills and processing. Following a comprehensive eye examination, the optometrist may prescribe vision therapy if the results of the exam indicate a need and if it is determined an appropriate treatment option for the patient. The vision therapy program is based on the results of standardized tests, the needs of the patient, and the patient’s signs and symptoms. Optometric vision therapy re-educates the brain to achieve single, clear, comfortable, two-eyed vision that improves eye coordination, focusing and eye movement, ultimately enhancing the 3-D viewing experience.

The fifth annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From April 14-21, 2010, using an online methodology, PSB interviewed 1,007 Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95% confidence level.)