Nintendo 3DS Could Uncover Vision Issues

18 Mar

An article in today’s Yahoo Finance section highlighted the potential visual benefits to the new Nintendo 3D, according to Dr. John Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City.

According to the article,  “U.S. eye specialists are dismissing warnings that the 3-D screen shouldn’t be used by children 6 or younger because it may harm their immature vision.

On the contrary, the optometrists say, it’s a good idea to get your kids to try the 3-D screen, especially if they’re younger than 6. It won’t do any harm, they say, and it could help catch vision disorders that have to be caught early to be fixed.

The new handheld game device is already available in Japan and goes on sale in the U.S. on March 27 for $250. It has two screens like the DS machines it is designed to replace. The top screen can show 3-D images, without the need for special glasses, though only new games will be in 3-D.

If your child doesn’t see the 3-D effect on the 3DS, that’s a sign that he or she may have a vision disorder such as amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” or subtler problems that can cause problems with reading, Dr. Duenas said. Kids who experience dizziness or discomfort should also be checked, he said.

Today’s 3-D viewing systems send different images to the right and left eyes, a technique that creates an illusion of depth. But a lot of the cues we use to perceive depth in our environment are missing. That confuses the eyes and accounts for the eyestrain and headaches many people experience watching 3-D movies. Because of that, optometrists say, these systems can help isolate problems that have to do with the way the eyes move, problems that aren’t caught by eye charts.

Nintendo’s warning, issued in December, was vaguely worded. It said specialists believe “there is a possibility that 3-D images which send different images to the left and right eye could affect the development of vision in small children.”

The Japanese company didn’t back the warning up with scientific evidence, so Duenas sees it as being motivated by liability concerns — much like coffee mugs carry warnings that beverages could be hot — rather than a true danger.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, says the company is “aware of all the work that has been done in the field” and issued the warning based on that work. The warning, he said, is based on research that up until age 6, a child’s eye — specifically the connection between the eye and the brain — is still developing.  Nintendo, he said, wants to be “conservative and consistent,” erring on the side of safety.

Optometrists haven’t seen any sign that 3-D screens can cause lasting damage, but they also acknowledge that not much is known about how 3-D viewing affects us. He noted that the No. 1 health issue associated with console and computer gaming is obesity, rather than eye problems.

“Kids should be out running around,” he said.”

Dr. Henahan encourages people to check out the American Optometric association’s special 3-D education  website.  If you or a family member are having difficulties with 3-D devices or suffer from computer related eyestrain, contact us for a complete eye examination.

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