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.