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The True Health Risks of 3D TV

3D is finally reaching a large audience, but there’s a burning question: What are the long-term effects of watching 3D content for months or even years?

According to a recent NPD report, US customers have spent a whopping $55M on 3D televisions and related technology. That’s surprising, since the first models to offer convincing 3D (from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic) and the first broadcast 3D content (from DirecTV and ESPN) just became available this summer.

Those who watched the recent World Cup matches, MLB All-Star game, or repeated viewings of Avatar can tell you: the experience is amazing and enjoyable, but there’s some concern about how much 3D we can stand over a long period.

Short-Term Exposure

To find out the short-term effects of 3D, we tested a Sony KDL-46H800 over a week, watching every imaginable show: World Cup matches, the MLB All-Star game, the Blu-Ray 3D version of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and several Major League Baseball games. The good news: we had no headaches or nausea, partly due to the crisp resolution of the 3D TV and highly accurate 3D goggles.

We did discover that, when watching 3D content, it’s important to take a break between shows. Mild fatigue can result because your eyes do have to work harder. And, it is even more important to sit within a 30- or 40-degree radius of the 3D TV. Sit too far to the side, or too far away, and a headache is more likely.

Long-Term exposure

Of course, watching for a week is one thing. The effects of watching for months, every day, and viewing many different kinds of 3D content are still unknown. Will everyone with a 3D set have bug-eyes and blurred vision in two or three years?

Fortunately, most experts agree that there are no known adverse effects. Dr. Roger Phelps, a 3D vision expert and a VSP Vision Care Optometrist, says there are some people who may have problems with binocular vision and focal abilities temporarily, and can find out how to treat the issue by meeting with a doctor.

“Watching 3D content on a regular basis has not been shown to pose any long-term risks to the viewer,” says Phelps. “However, whether you’re viewing 3D content for a few minutes or a few hours and you’re experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea or other symptoms, it would be best to see your eye doctor to rule out problems.”

Phelps says one of the key improvements has to do with the goggles used for 3D. For example, Marchon3D goggles use circular polarization so the viewer can tilt his head or move side to side without spoiling the experience.