New 3-D Study Finds Evidence of Consistent Eyestrain, Headaches

A study funded by Samsung and discussed in the Journal of Vision may have found the reason why so many individuals experience eye strain while watching 3D content. According to the article, problems arise when our eyes are asked to simultaneously focus on the screen while simultaneously adjusting to the distance of the content.

"When watching stereo 3D displays, the eyes must focus — that is, accommodate — to the distance of the screen because that's where the light comes from. At the same time, the eyes must converge to the distance of the stereo content, which may be in front of or behind the screen," explains author Martin S. Banks, professor of optometry and vision science, University of California, Berkeley.

Sadly, it doesn't actually look like this

In 2D, the surface of the screen and the point of convergence--where the eye naturally attempts to focus--are identical. In 3D, they can vary, with content being projected either in front of or behind the screen.

The report found that at short range--10 feet or less--content placed 'behind' the screen, as if the viewer was looking through a window, was more comfortable than content placed in front of the screen. This trend reversed at range--when watching movies, content placed in front of the screen was more comfortable than content sitting behind it.

Even worse, it doesn't look like this, either

Unfortunately for 3D display manufacturers and movie studios, there's some evidence that 3D televisions are less fatiguing if 3D is displayed in front. This implies that 3D may not convert well from the large screen to the living room--at least, not without changing the depth of the projected image. Regardless of type, 3D is still more fatiguing than 2D; a fact that continues to pose problems for 3DTV manufacturers.

"Discomfort associated with viewing Stereo 3D is a major problem that may limit the use of technology; we hope that our findings will inspire more research in this area. This is an area of research where basic science meets application and we hope that the science can proceed quickly enough to keep up with the increasingly widespread use of the technology," adds Banks.

As we've previously discussed, 3D TV sales are less than stellar with relatively few customers pointing to 3D content as a must-have feature. Research projects like this could, over time, enhance the attractiveness of 3D, but it's increasingly less likely that the technology is going to drive an explosive surge in customer demand. With high-quality 3D content slow to appear, panel manufacturers coming down from years of high sales as customers replaced CRTs may have to adjust to lower forecasts. OLEDs still have the potential to drive mass consumer interest, but not until someone manages to solve the problems plaguing their production costs.
Tags:  Samsung, Blu-ray, 3D, OLED, 3dtv