Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
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Loughborough University

Loughborough Design School

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Does 3D gaming risk damaging the eyes?

21 January 2011

The College of Optometrists, with the support of research undertaken by the Design School, have highlighted a current issue that poses particular danger to the eye, their press release reads:

Nintendo have recently issued a warning that their new "3DS" games console should not be used by under 6s as it could harm their eyesight. Commenting Dr Susan Blakeney, Optometric Adviser to the College of Optometrists said: "Most people will be fine when watching 3D films or television and there is no evidence of any more long term harm being caused after watching 3D displays than there is with 2D ones.

"However, problems with the way your eyes work together can potentially result in headaches and dizziness when using visual display units or 3D displays and if you notice any problems which have not been investigated before it is wise to see your optometrist. As well as ensuring that your eyes are healthy your optometrist may be able to incorporate special lenses called prisms into your spectacles to improve your visual comfort."

February's edition of the College's research journal, OPO, will examine this issue in greater depth. OPO, to be published on the 18 February contains a review of the potential hazards of viewing 3D technology by Dr Peter Howarth of Loughborough University. Dr Howarth said: "Although people have reported experiencing symptoms when watching 3D content, specifically headaches and eyestrain, there have been no studies whatsoever which have detected any permanent damage.

"Furthermore, stationary examples of these types of pictures have been around since Victorian times (Wheatstone stereoscopes), and films have been around since the craze for them in the middle of the last century. The normal eye is adaptable enough to accept small 3D stereoscopic content without stress. It is only if there are large, prolonged effects that people experience symptoms of eyestrain."

Work in the Environmental Ergonomics Centre has shown that small amounts of depth in these games will not cause problems for people with normal binocular systems, but that large amounts could result in headaches and eyestrain. However, there is no evidence that this leads to any permanent damage.

People training for a marathon, for example, will have sore legs after the training session, but this exercise should strengthen the muscles, not damage them. If your eye-control system is being similarly ‘pushed’ towards its limits, then one might expect symptoms to occur. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are damaging your eyes, but it could indicate that you need to have an eye test.

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