PORTLAND, Ore. Engineering refinements to 3-D TV technology could be required if even a small percentage of users suffer from health problems related to viewing 3-D TV this year, according to Jannick Rolland, a professor at the University of Central Florida's School of Optics.
University of Central Florida
While most viewers of the 3-D TVs being rolled out there is year should suffer no adverse reactions to the technology, there have been very few short-term studiesand no long-term studieson the technology, according to Rolland.
Last month, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. issued a warning about possible health effects associated with 3-D TV, including altered vision, lightheadedness and even stroke or epileptic seizure. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Washington have published papers finding that visual disparities in 3-D TV images can cause physical strain in viewers.
"I applaud the 3-D TV makers for introducing this new technology, because right away they are going to get both criticism and accolades," said Rolland. "It's like newspeople are looking for drama, but that is not the point. The point is the vision; 3-D TV will happen, no matter what, we'll just have to wait and see how people are affected."
Rolland helped pioneer virtual reality (VR), which uses head-mounted displays to completely immerse users into a 3-D world. Today she focuses on "augmented reality" which, instead of full immersion, just overlays additional information on the real world, such as adding x-ray imagery over a patient's skin, showing surgeons where to make incisions.
VR ultimately failed in the marketplace because engineers could not recreate all the necessary visual cues for full immersion in a device that consumers could afford. 3-D TV sidesteps the immersion issue by not attempting to recreate all the cues necessary for a head-mounted device, where a user's viewpoint changes when they turn their head, instead just recreating the separate perspective cues for the left and right eyes at a single viewpoint.
"The difference between VR and 3-D TV is that it does not entail the full immersion of the user, since there is no head-mounted display," said Rolland.
But many questions remain regarding the one-size-fits all approach that has to be taken for mass audiences to enjoy 3-D experience, according to Rolland. For instance, can the 3-D glasses accommodate an interocular distance between eyes that is much less or more than average? Will adaption to visual disparities interfere with vision after a movie? Will extended exposure permanently change brain functions in unsupervised children who watch for hours on end? To find out the answers some labs are doing research, but the industry is marching forward regardless.
The Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at the University of Southern California will research reports from consumers regarding adverse reactions, over the next year as 3-D TVs enter the mainstream.