The Hidden Face of 3D Technologies and Screens

Faced with the rapid development of new audiovisual technologies in stereoscopic 3D, the French Agency for the Safety of Food, Environment and Labor (ANSES ) has sought to assess the potential health risks associated with the use of these technologies on the human vision. This study showed that patients using 3D glasses suffered abnormal visual fatigue and pain around the eyes, dry eye sensation, various other vision problems (double vision, reduced contrast sensitivity to space, decrease visual acuity and perceptual speed), and extra-ocular disorders (headache, neck pain, pain in back and shoulders, loss of concentration, performance declines in mental activities). Other symptoms could potentially include vertigo or altered perception of the environment. These effects are poorly studied, but could increase the risk of accidents.

Children under the age of 6 are the most affected by 3D viewing systems (because the visual system is still immature), but moderate use of these new technologies is recommended for teenagers through the age of 13. Even adults are encouraged to reduce their exposure to movies in three dimensions.

This is a serious warning to take into account every time a movie comes out in 3D. Since the mid-2000s, the number of these films has increased. It is now possible to see 3D movies at home with the appropriate glasses, on a television or even on some smartphones. So develop good habits by limiting the time when these technologies are used, especially when forced to drive afterwards. This is not just for good eye health, but also to avoid accidents after two or three hours of film in three dimensions.

This example demonstrates that vision is a medical “elephant in the room”. Despite the fact that vision is our dominant sense, there have been very few scientific studies about the effects of extensive screen time on vision. Vision is solicited by many and varied displays beginning at a very young age, and adults spend a significant amount of time in front of screens both at work and at home – a trend that only continues to worsen.

We need vision every day, but are we being careful with it? We act as if vision were a given, always effective. Although we can always find the time to spend in front of a new screen, we rarely find time to check our vision.

Jean-Felix Biosse Duplan

President of the Vision Impact Institute