3D: Does It Make Your Head Happy ... or Ache?

Nintendo has quasi-acknowledged that its 3DS can cause headaches and should not be used by children under 7. The glasses-free 3D handheld gaming device launched this week. Meanwhile, new research commissioned by the Blu-ray Disc Association is trying to improve the health image of 3D. It's research shows that the brain is more attentive when watching a 3D movie than when watching HD or SDTV, making the movie a more pleasurable experience.

About a year ago, much news was made about how 3D could cause headaches and visual disturbances. One report went so far as to blame 3D for causing a car crash. (An 18 year-old reportedly blacked out while driving after watching the 3D film Alice in Wonderland.). Researchers found that Stereo 3D movies and television could cause people to suffer as many as seven perceptual problems, said Martin Banks, a professor of optometry and vision science at the University of California at Berkeley. Banks found that as the distance to the 3D display is reduced, the brain has more problems with the 3D techniques used to fake it into seeing an object as closer than it really is. Banks had also warned that children's exposure to 3D should be limited.

Would you crash your car after watching this guy in 3D?
Perhaps not but you might want to...

Fast forward to today. People have been complaining that Nintendo's new glasses-free 3DS handheld game causes headaches. Nintendo has (almost) acknowledged that the gaming device can indeed cause headaches or other visual problems by posting guidance on how to minimize them. The Twittersphere, being the kind of medium that it is, dumbed-down this advice to two syllables: "Take breaks." But the advice was a bit more involved. Nintendo advises taking a 15-minute break after every 60 minutes of play. It also says individuals should adjust their angle of display and the device's 3D depth slide, which intensifies or reduces (even turns off) the 3D effect. It then warned that 3D should be turned off completely for children age 6 and under.

Nintendo says children under 7 should pass on the 3DS.

The issue, doctors say, is that 3D works by tricking the brain into making you think you are physically moving in relation to your surroundings. But you aren't. So your inner ear is not experiencing the movement that corresponds to what the eyes are seeing. This doesn't normally happen in real life.

The Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) would like you to buy more 3D discs and equipment. It can't counter the scientific evidence that shows tricking the brain sometimes hurts. So it came up with a different methodology. It commissioned MindLabs to test how people emotionally react to 3D at the physical, and "subconscious" level. That is, do they like it more? MindLabs is a research facility for hire that measures human emotions, attention and performance by monitoring biofeedback including EEG brainwaves (or electroencephalography). EEG can be used in all kinds of fascinating ways, including mind-controlled games.

Blue-ray disc
3D is a measurably more engrossing way to watch a movie, in theory...

MindLab tested 24 people and determined that they were 12 percent more attentive when watching 3D then when watching HD. They were 29 percent more so compared to watching a DVD in SD, Pocket-lint reports.

No one would deny that 3D is more immersive, that's why people like it, particularly for gaming. But the question is ... does the brain love 3D or not? Answer: not really. But with moderation, regular breaks and a little maturity, 3D seems safe enough and sure is a whole lot of fun.