3D-TechnologyIn my last post as a VSP Ambassador,  I shared some information with you about the effects of technology such as smartphones and tablets on our eyes. But what about some of the more popular, specific technologies like 3D?

3D technology has made a comeback in a big way. But, believe it or not, the first ever 3D movie was created in 1915!! It came back a few times over the years as technology improved. The full length sound feature 3D movie that most consider the “first” was released in 1952. In most of our time, we remember a brief boom in the 80s as people flocked to theaters to wear the awesome red and blue glasses and watch movies. Now, we can easily have 3D technology in our homes. Imagine a lovely 55″ TV that gives you a 3D movie experience in your family room. Most of these TVs use special glasses. You might have one or two pair come with your TV, and you can order more if you have a large family.

Of course if you have a 3D TV at home, you can head to one of many movie theater that offer the experience. I recently saw Iron Man 3 in 3D and I must say that it was pretty awesome. The 3D effects definitely add something to the experience.

Do you wonder exactly what your eyes experience when looking through those glasses at a 3D movie? VSP Vision Care optometrist, Dr. Stephen Glasser gave me some very useful information. Dr. Glasser is a VSP Vision Care optometrist based in Washington, D.C. He specializes in specialty contact lenses and treatment of Computer Vision Syndrome. Dr. Glasser received his degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

What does the ability to perceive depth in 3D mean about our eyes?

3D viewing requires that both eyes function in a coordinated manner. They focus and track the 3D object. In other words, if the eyes don’t work well together, for any reason, 3D vision is not perceived by the person. The most common causes are eye muscle problems, prescription imbalance between the eyes and improper focusing by the individual. These issues can usually be corrected with proper eye care. Also, age and other health conditions can impede the ability to see 3D properly. Even such things as dirty contact lenses or improperly fitting glasses can have dramatic effects on the individual.

How exactly does this perception work in our eyes?

Unlike your hands, which can do different and separate tasks at the same time (such as playing a musical instrument), the eyes have to work with each other and mirror each other’s actions. This includes focusing and aiming of the eyes. The brain controls the movement of the eyes to ensure that each eye is doing, or trying to do, exactly what the other is doing. So individuals who do not have eyes that work with each other, due to the fact that they don’t aim in the same direction or due to one eye being capable of seeing much clearer than the other, cannot perceive 3D movies or pictures. In many cases, training or surgical intervention can relieve these imbalances.

Do some people perceive 3D better than or different from others? If so, why is this the case?

Some people do, in fact, perceive 3D better than others, mainly because their eyes are capable of working with each other with greater precision and accuracy. While some training can be done to help an individual see 3D better, some people just have the ability to use their eyes to greater degrees than others. The best example would be pilots and professional athletes. In some cases, it is because of the higher precision of the eyes that control eye movement and focusing; in others, it is due to the retina, in the back of the eye, being able to see very slight differences in an object’s distance or speed better that most people.

What factors affect this kind of perception?

Some of the factors include having the right prescription for the eyes and not having overly tired eyes. This will allow the muscles that control the eyes to fix consistently at a particular distance to allow for 3D vision. There are certain factors that can’t be controlled, as already mentioned, but many factors can not only be tested for but also corrected if there are any shortcomings. In addition, there are steps that can be taken to increase an individual’s perception of the space around him or her to make the focusing and aiming of the eyes both quicker and more accurate.

How can we best take care of our eyes to ensure that we can continue to watch all of these 3D movies that are coming out in theaters these days?

The best advice, by far, is to have your eyes examined. In this way, both the ability of the eyes to see clearly, as well as their ability to work efficiently with each other, can be tested and, if needed, any shortcomings can be corrected. In addition, it is not only important to determine how people see but also how healthy their visual system is. With the greater sophistication of 3D movies, it becomes even more important that the eyes are working well. Otherwise, the person will not get the full effect that the makers of the film had intended. In many cases, an individual who is having problems feeling comfortable watching a 3D movie will experience worsening symptoms, such as headaches and dizziness, the more that they try to compensate for the shortcomings of their eyes or the visual correction.


Want to know even more? VSP has published a very informative document, A Parent’s FAQ on 3D Eye Health Concerns for Children with the help of Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford, that you should definitely check out for more information.


Disclosure: This post is part of my involvement in the compensated VSP Ambassador program. All opinions are my own.