Why the 3DS Might Be Bad for Young Eyes

Nintendo has been playing it very safe with the 3DS lately, publicly stating that kids under six shouldn’t view the 3D effects and providing parental controls that will lock the handheld in 2D-mode.

Is there really any danger to children’s eyesight though?  After all, we naturally view the world around us in three dimensions so what could the problem be?

Speaking to NPR, Ahna Girshick, a vision researcher at New York University, explains it thusly:

A three-dimensional effect is created on a flat screen like a video game device or television by filming a scene with two cameras.

"Each camera gets a slightly different view, and that creates what’s called binocular disparity," says Ahna Girshick, a vision researcher at New York University. Binocular disparity is what you get when you look at the world with two eyes. Each eye sends an image to the brain that sees the world from a slightly different angle.

"The brain is accustomed to processing that. And it creates this 3-D impression," she says. Makers of 3-D media are taking advantage of that. "So they’re just piggybacking what’s already built into our eyes and brains."

But there’s a problem: We also get some information about how far away an object is by how much we adjust the lens in our eyeball to bring it into focus.

"So with a near display, like if you’re looking at a TV and you are sitting up close, your eyes actually focus on the surface of the TV, and that’s at one distance," Girshick explains. But if the TV is showing a 3-D image, your brain might think an object is far off in the distance, even though your focus is on the screen right in front of you.

"And these two systems are now in conflict. In the natural world they’re never in conflict," she says.

There is currently no evidence that 3D visuals are harmful to anyone so it’s up to parents to heed and enforce Nintendo’s 3DS usage recommendations for their children.

AE: Better safe than sorry and all that but buying your kiddies a shiny new 3DS and forcing them to play all their games in 2D does strike me as a bit mean.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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