Media Advisory: Vision scientist to address eye strain related to 3-D technology

Contact: Sarah Yang, Media Relations
(510) 643-7741

ATTENTION: Health and technology reporters


Is there such a thing as 3-D fatigue? There is if you ask a vision scientist from the University of California, Berkeley. The success of “Avatar” and the promise of 3-D views of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver have brought new attention to the potential of immersive technology. But done badly, 3-D can lead to eye discomfort and fatigue for some viewers.

Martin Banks, professor of optometry, has studied the impact of 3-D displays on vision, and he will discuss his research on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at the 2010 Tech Retreat of the Hollywood Post Alliance, a Los Angeles-based trade association supporting the industry of motion pictures, television, digital media and other dynamic media content.

The eye strain problem occurs because 3-D displays violate the normal rules of perception by forcing viewers to fixate on images in front of or behind the physical screen.

“In the real world,” explained Banks, “our eyes converge when we look at nearby objects and diverge when we look off into the distance. This is called vergence. At the same time, our eyes are focusing – or sharpening the image – on either nearby or faraway objects, and that is called accommodation. The two are normally tightly linked in the brain, so we don’t even think about it. But with 3-D, the screen is a set distance away, determining where you should focus. But the images displayed on that screen portray different distances, and that determines where your eyes have to converge. The more extreme the 3-D effects, the greater the vergence-accommodation conflict.”

In a study published in March 2008 in the Journal of Vision, Banks and his team of researchers had 11 study participants view a monitor that independently controlled the vergence and accommodation distance. Each of two sessions lasted about 45 minutes. “After the inconsistent (vergence and accommodation) conditions, people reported more fatigue, eye strain and headaches,” said Banks.

Banks noted that there are individual variations in the amount of strain reported. “With more research, we can perhaps learn which techniques can help mitigate the potential eye fatigue from 3-D displays,” said Banks.