With the holiday season only three months away, prepare to be besieged by this year’s hottest gift: 3-D televisions. Intrigued by the popularity of 3-D films such as Avatar, TV manufacturers now offer their own version of this technology that enables consumers to both watch TV shows and play video games.
Yet high levels of 3-D exposure can pose health risks, many experts warn. It’s one thing to see a 3-D movie in a theater, but it’s entirely different to spend dozens of hours a week in front of a screen at home. The ongoing effects of 3-D on our visual acuity and balance remain unclear.
Even TV makers are worried. When Samsung introduced its 3-D TVs in April, it issued an extensive health warning to potential buyers. It disclosed that the TVs could cause “lightheadedness, nausea, dizziness, twitching or even convulsions, especially in epileptics,” USA Today reports.
Moreover, Samsung urges TV watchers to take lots of breaks and only engage in 3-D viewing when they’re well rested and alcohol-free. The company is going out of its way to give fair warning because the latest iteration of 3-D technology is so new and lacks long-term safety tests.
Oh, my aching eyes
Whenever you focus visually on a single depth for hours on end, you risk eyestrain that triggers headaches. That’s why it helps to turn away from a computer monitor occasionally to look out the window. People immersed in 3-D images for long periods, such as film editors, complain of headaches.
“You’re taking that normal relationship which has been coupled in the brain for years and you’re changing it,” says Martin Banks, professor of optometry at University of California, Berkeley. “And what we showed is that can cause fatigue.”
Banks has concluded that 3-D movies can cause blurred vision as well as headaches. He notes that 3-D causes our eyes to focus on what’s far and near simultaneously.