Are 3D movies, TV bad for your eyes?

February 24, 2010 11:03:01 AM PST
It appears entertainment can be bad for our health. A UC Berkeley vision scientist is calling attention to what he calls "3D fatigue." His research shows if 3D movies or television is done badly, it strains the viewer's eyes.

A film can certainly be enhanced by 3D. It is a whole new sensory experience and that is a good and bad thing. Because the film is inconsistent with real life, it can lead to feeling tired.

"I think it is here to stay and I think it adds something to the experience," Professor Martin Banks said.

Banks and his research team studied the impact of 3D displays on 11 people.

In the real world, a person's eyes converge when they look at nearby objects and diverge when they look into the distance. At the same time, a person's eyes have to focus.

Banks says 3D violates the normal rules of perception.

"You're taking that normal relationship which has been coupled in the brain for years and you're changing it; we showed that can cause fatigue," he said.

That can lead to headaches, blurry vision and a tired feeling.

But the film industry is aware of the issue and new technology is lessening the problem.

so many people are wearing these 3D glasses because of "avatar." and professor banks says technically this film got it right

The recent hit movie Avatar is an example of how Hollywood got it "right." In each scene, the filmmaker draws the viewer to focus on just one object.

"What they did is put the shift between left and right eye imagines of that object essentially to zero,' Banks said.

But 3D TV could mean a change in how people watch TV.

"I'm trying to imagine lying on a couch watching 3D TV; the kind of eye movement you have to make in a stereo media display is unusual," Banks said.

And that can be fatiguing. There may be more issues and Banks says he wants to do a bigger study. He does know that older people are less likely to get fatigued compared to younger people.