Monday, June 28, 2010

Can 3D harm your children?

3D TV is getting a lot of hype. Probably too much.

It's starting to bother me how short the consumer electronics industry is trying to make their product life cycle for home entertainment products. You used to be able to buy a CRT and keep it for 15 years without problems. Nowadays, you buy an LCD TV and it craps out on you in a year and a half (obviously right after your warranty expires).

CE industry marketing is making your brand new TV obsolete the day after you buy it. First we needed to buy LCD / plasma panels. Then LED TV's were released. Little did the consumer know that those TV's were available in previous years but were called LCD TV's with LED back-lighting because that's just what they are.

Now they're trying to sell us on virtual reality...oh wait, no that was 15 years ago. VR was all the rage in the mid-nineties: it promised a more immersive experience, it was in the movies, it was getting a whole lot of hype and a bunch of great VR headsets were going to be released within months and we were expecting to be running through 3D environments with better, more realistic graphics than before.

Hey, that sounds a lot like 3D TV. But then the whole VR thing just disappeared with no as much as a word why.

Audioholics, was able to interview virtual reality researcher and co-developer of VRML Mark Pesce who worked with Sega to develop their VR headset. Sega buried their VR headset after rigorous testing. Third party lab, the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) at Palo Alto California basically told Sega: "Don't give this to kids!"

Those stunning results were covered up by the CE industry but research on 'cybersickness' has been published as an unclassified document from the defense department of Australia regarding the harmful effects of 3D environments.

One of the major problems with 3D and how it gets you to see/think in 3D is that it plays around with your stereopsis, or your ability to perceive depth, an ability humans developed to be better hunters. Children sometimes get lazy-eye, an abnormal alignment of the eyes that can compromise depth perception. Every time we watch a 3D movie we temporarily get a form of lazy-eye to make the images 'pop'. We do that with "Magic Eye" images too.

Research has obviously been studied by the CE industry and more studies on 3D are likely being run now. There's a reason that the Nintendo 3DS that may show up on your child's next list to Santa Clause will carry a warning about dangers to children under 7 playing.

Can prolonged exposure to 3D TV's harm your children during their stages of critical development? Will 3D TV's go the way of the VR headset? Are we destined to see legions of kids wearing eye-patches? Read the Audioholics article for a little more on the subject.

1 comment:

  1. Not only that, but people watch TV together. Clunky helmets and glasses aren't conducive to that experience. I suspect 'glasses-free' 3D TV has much stronger potential than these other past variations.