Stop the Presses! 3D actually GOOD for children?

This should make some industry insiders very very happy. The American Optometric Association (AOA) is releasing a report called 3D in the Classroom subtitled “See Well, Learn Well”. (See the announcement by clicking here).

Contrary to recent gloom-and-doom reports about the perils of 3D—including headaches, nausea, and damage to the vision of young children—the AOA is asserting that its research shows not only does use of 3D significantly enhance learning in the classroom, it’s useful in early identification of vision problems for early intervention and treatment. According to the AOA:

“…New 3D opportunities are underscored by two essential facts, 1) children often learn faster and retain more information in the 3D environment, and 2) the ability to perceive 3D and learn in 3D requires precise elements of ‘vision fitness’. Importantly, 3D vision fitness skills associated with eye alignment, eye tracking, and balanced and corrected refractive errors are also associated with improved overall reading and learning abilities.”

The announcement continues:

“The recent emergence of innovative 3D presentation technologies and 3D content in movie theaters, in the home, in video games and now in the classroom , perhaps surprisingly, provides  a unique public health opportunity. The ability to perceive depth in a 3D presentation – known as ‘stereopsis’– turns out to be a highly sensitive test of a range of vision health indicators.  It is much more sensitive than the standard eye chart that has been in use for 150 years, because it requires that both eyes function in a coordinated manner, as they converge, focus and track the 3D image.”

Variety has an excellent article by Michael Sullivan putting this into context for the high stakes emerging 3D business which ranges far beyond education to encompass entertainment, advertising, and gaming.  Addressing industry warning labels (Nintendo 3DS for example) he says:

“AOA began speaking out after Nintendo attached a warning on its new 3DS stating that the effect should not be used for children younger than 6. In a statement, the AOA disputed that assertion, saying, ‘Since vision develops from birth, it is crucial to uncover the type of vision disorders that may interfere with Nintendo 3D viewing at an early age. Accordingly, children younger than 6 can use the 3DS in 3D mode if their visual system is developing normally.’ Labels on most 3DTV sets also warn against prolonged viewing, despite the fact that there is no medical evidence that substantiates these warnings.”

My opinion: this is closer to a credible scientific insight than the alarmist news reports that have been proliferating recently.  But I am filing this under “Business of 3D” as well as “Science of 3D” because, well, I’m essentially a skeptic.  Debates around the dangers of smoking and climate change teach us that it’s not enough to see what is being said—it’s important to always see who is saying it and what’s in it for them.

So far, however, the pedigree of this report looks excellent and that’s great news for the 3D industry.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE! the report is available online here.


9 thoughts on “Stop the Presses! 3D actually GOOD for children?

  1. Pingback: NEW: American Optometric Association Report on 3D | Planet 3D

  2. The pedigree of this report is excellent, and it is not market driven. It was driven by health concerns and classroom concerns. The report was largely completed before any industry sponsorship for printing was even on the table. It is based on solid medical and scientific evidence, not commercial hype. Even after a few organizations offered support for the printing and dissemination costs, I personally witnessed the researchers refuse to change the wording because someone from the industry thought it would be better stated in another way. The key messages of this report are this:

    First, if you cannot see in 3D naturally (not just cinema 3D), it affects your entire quality of life: the ability for a child to read in primary years, to see the board from the back of the room, to learn, to perform well in athletics, to drive a car safely.

    Second, 3D from the cinema or classroom has an unanticipated benefit- a lagniappe-of being able to quickly ‘diagnose’ up to nine different eye disorders or conditions. If identified, they can be treated. The treatment, incidentally, often requires 3D tools as well! Already, 3D in schools and cinema has enabled medical experts to uncover eye disorders in children 4-5 years before they would normally have been diagnosed, with heightened success in treatment. This avoids years of struggling in school, and in life.

    Don’t mistake this report for crass commercialism–it is sound medical information.

  3. Even if 3D is good, playing video games isn’t at all good for children – They need to do homework, read, go out to play and use their imagination. 3D is addictive – don’t let them overdo it.

    • I heartily agree with Dr. Brady that playing video games and similar sedentary activities are not at all good for children and should be balanced with play, activity, motion, movement, creative experiences, and the stretching of a child’s imagination muscles. But I would like to slightly adjust the last statement. 3D is not addictive. Video games are addictive (as are some card-based fantasy games), online immersive virtual worlds (WOW) are addictive, content can be addictive, some behavioral choices are addictive, but 3D is not in itself addictive.

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