3D TV May Have Dizzying Drawbacks

If the ongoing media coverage and manufacturer hype has left you sick and tired of 3D television, it might be apt: the product itself could also cause nausea.

New Scientist magazine (registration required) has warned that, despite significant improvements, 3D formats may still inherently cause some viewers to feel ill when watching some footage.

The problem lies with the fact that 3D TV continues to work on the basis of each eye seeing the same image from a different viewpoint, creating an illusion of depth.

That upsets the balance in the eye by which the eyeballs move inwards or outwards to narrow or lengthen the distance of focus, while the lens of the eye changes shape to focus light onto the retina. That works seamlessly with most imagery (including, of course, real three-dimensional objects.)

However, with 3D TV, the eyeball moves to focus on where the viewer perceives the object to be, while the lens must remains the same shape, targeted on the light of the screen, to avoid blurring. That upsets the usual balance of the eye, leading to a feeling of sickness.

Television appears to make things worse: partly because the viewer is closer to the screen, and partly because television watchers are more likely to be watching for a lengthy session. Animation doesn’t cause as much of a problem, mainly because it can be specifically created for 3D, but live action such as fast-paced sports events can be problematic.

The good news is that the problem looks unlikely to be both severe and widespread. It seems that only 10 to 20% of people will find it a serious problem, made up mainly of those who have a below-average ability to process artificial 3D imagery, but still have enough ability that they can see the effects.

It’s also a problem that can be severely mitigated by production quality. With well-made productions, the effect will often be so minimal that it doesn’t cause problems. It’s cases where footage goes out with the two “channels” either out of sync or misaligned that are most likely to lead to the nausea feeling, which is more likely to happen with low-budget productions.

[Picture credit: JcMaco (Flickr) (CC)]





4 Responses to 3D TV May Have Dizzying Drawbacks

  1. Reminds me of the "sitting too close to the TV" and "computer monitors are bad for your health" scares. I predict that lawsuits will follow; concessions will be made; good science will never support.

  2. Some people can't go on a roller costar either. It should be no different then going to a 3d movie. what I care about is will there be any movies or game that will make having a 3d tv worth it. Just like the PlayStation move. Great you have motion control now. You don't have any games to go with it unless you are a sports person.,

  3. I end up with a mirgraine after watching films at the IMAX cinemas because I was born with a squint/lazy eye. Due to past surgery my brain finds it impossible to combine the images from both eyes and so my brain actually blocks the information from my left eye until I focus on it or think about it. Watching 3D images forces my brain to use my left eye which is enough of a strain, but also because the images don't line up properly still, I'm sure it spoils the 3D and hurts to look at the film after about 30mins.

  4. i have been able to watch the newer 3D movies on the big screen easily, even though it takes a while adjusting the glasses over mine so they don't fall off. but i wouldn't buy into this '3D Television' too fast. i'm gonna wait a few years and see what happens first. i haven't even considered Bluray. we don't watch enough movies or have the money to have a really nice home theatre system and actually.. purchase HD content. i wouldn't want to watch everything like that either. i'd get annoyed. but its much better than those red and green/blue glasses. as soon as i put those things on my head and eyes hurt so bad. maybe because i wear prescription lenses. i'm really nearsighted. or there's something else wrong.. idk.