Posted by: Didapper PJ23 MAR 2011
Hollywood’s current mania for three-dimensional films has given rise to a “new” medical condition dubbed “3D fatigue”.
Spending time in a cinema seat viewing feature-length films such as ‘Avatar’ through 3D glasses can lead to headache, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, eye pain, dysfunction of the ocular muscles, dimness of vision and other symptoms.
Although 3D fatigue may be a new name, the condition is far from new and was one reason why 3D films failed to catch on when they were first tried in the 1950s. The usual medical term for the condition is asthenopia, from the Greek for weak eyes.
It is not just films that can lead to 3D fatigue. It can occur with any application of 3D technology that uses stereoscopic images to create an illusion of depth, such as flight simulators and helmet-mounted virtual reality displays. The problem is that the technology requires the brain to distinguish images in a way that is not natural to it.
Straining the brain by bombarding it with stereoscopic images is not the only way to induce asthenopia in users of modern technology. Simply concentrating for too long on a visually intense task can be enough.
Eye discomfort caused by continually focusing on a computer monitor can usually be relieved by occasionally glancing away to focus on a distant object. But in a darkened cinema there is nothing much to look at other than the screen.
Some hope of relief from film-induced asthenopia is offered by the possibility that 3D is just a fad that will blow over, as in the 1950s. Apparently some jaded cinema-goers have already borrowed the term “3D fatigue” to describe their boredom with 3D technology. Their argument is that it does nothing to enhance the storyline and, once the novelty has worn off, does little to enrich the experience.
Perhaps we should redefine “3D” in relation to D-words such as dizziness, distress, dimness, discomfort and dysfunction. Or maybe distaste, dismay and dissatisfaction?