University Place, WA – With Avatar a huge box office hit, many people are headed to movie theaters to see what the excitement over 3-D is all about. Unfortunately, many of them may be disappointed because they didn’t know they can’t see 3-D.
While the concept of being “3-D ready” means that the new 3-D TVs, showcased at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, will be able to provide 3-D viewing, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development state that our eyes need to be “3-D ready” to be able to fully enjoy Avatar. In other words, you need to be able to see 3-D for the entire 2 hours and 40 minutes of riveting 3-D action.
The 3-D version of Avatar has two images projected on the screen, each image seen by one eye. The images are then merged into one by your brain. If the images aren’t perceived correctly, it will be very difficult to merge or fuse the images into 3-D. The technology behind the Avatar 3-D effects is based on the premise that the viewer has the ability to see 3-D.
“There are a variety of vision problems which may cause intermittent problems, where you will see 3-D part of the time. This can definitely cause headaches or at the least make viewing very uncomfortable,” explained Dr. Bradley Habermehl, President of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.
Research has shown that up to 56% of those 18 to 38 years of age have one or more problems with binocular vision and therefore could have difficulty seeing 3-D. In addition, about five percent of the population has amblyopia (lazy eye) and/or strabismus (eye turn), which make 3-D viewing impossible.
But there is hope. Thanks to optometric vision therapy, thousands of people who previously could not see 3-D are enjoying every special effect Avatar has to offer. Dr. Susan R. Barry, professor of neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College, who lived most of her life stereoblind until she went through an optometric vision therapy program at the age of 48, shares, “I am happy to say I am no longer stereoblind. I can enjoy the 3-D effects in Avatar as well or more than anyone else. The scenes of the forest receding way into the distance and the seeds from the Tree of Life floating in front of the screen were fantastic.”
In fact, Barry’s life changed so dramatically by gaining 3-D vision that she wrote Fixing My Gaze (June, 2009), to share her experience with the world. In an interview published in Scientific American, From 2-D to 3-D Sight: How One Scientist Learned to See, Barry shares, “Seeing in 3-D provides a fundamentally different way of seeing and interpreting the world than seeing with one eye. When I began to see in stereo, it came as an enormous surprise and a great gift.”
Some people may have 3-D vision but feel nauseous or dizzy when watching Avatar. This can be caused by something known as visual motion hypersensitivity.
“People who have visual motion hypersensitivity, will find Avatar quite challenging to view,” according to Kenneth J. Ciuffreda, O.D., FCOVD-A, Ph.D., a professor at SUNY, State College of Optometry, Department of Vision Sciences in New York City, and leading research expert in binocular vision. Ciuffreda recently co-authored a paper on the topic of visual motion hypersensitivity (VMH) and one of the signs of VMH is feeling dizzy when watching a movie in the movie theater. And, this isn’t even a 3-D movie! Adding the third dimension can make viewing stressful for someone with VMH. (The reference for the paper is: Winkler Pa, Ciuffreda KJ. Ocular fixation, vestibular dysfunction, and visual motion hypersensitivity. Optometry 2009;80(9):502-512.)
As technology quickly advances to provide us with 3-D ready TVs so we can watch movies, like Avatar, in the comfort of our own home, there are still millions of people whose eyes are not 3-D ready. “It is our mission to educate the public on the fact that you can become 3-D ready. Optometric vision therapy has helped thousands of people across the world to be able to see 3-D; even those who have had multiple eye surgeries, such as Dr. Barry,” Habermehl states.
“It is amazing to see people’s faces as they suddenly start seeing their world in 3-D after having been stereoblind,” states Dr. Williams, a developmental optometrist who helps her patients with developing 3-D/stereo vision and has an office in University Place. “Most people take vision for granted and don’t realize how different their lives would be without 3-D vision. I would like to encourage anyone who has trouble seeing 3-D to find out more about how you too can become 3-D ready.”
To find out more about 3-D vision and optometric vision therapy, visit the website for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, www.covd.org.
About COVD and our member doctors
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in functional, behavioral, and developmental vision care, optometric vision therapy and vision rehabilitation. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists. For more information on learning-related vision problems, vision therapy, COVD and our open access journal, Optometry & Vision Development, please visit www.covd.org.
Developmental optometrists are eye care practitioners who specialize in visual development, the prevention of vision problems, enhancement of visual skills, the rehabilitation of various functional vision problems and provide optometric vision therapy for children and adults. Optometric vision therapy is a program of prescribed procedures to change and improve visual performance, which in turn helps our eyes and brain work together more effectively for reading and other learning tasks as well as seeing 3-D.
About (Dr. Sara Williams)
Dr. Williams is a developmental optometrist who diagnoses and treats vision problems that interfere with reading, learning, and 3-D/stereo vision. She has recently joined Vision Care Associates, who will be celebrating 50 years in developmental vision in University Place this summer.