Last week, Nintendo became the latest consumer electronics maker to warn that kids shouldn’t use their three-dimensional image-based gaming devices, because they may have a negative impact on development of the human visual system.
The warning came just a month before the company’s much anticipated release of the 3DS, which is just such a device that features a 3.5 inch screen which can create 3-D images without the need for special glasses. The 3DS is Nintendo’s most anticipated new product since it released the iconic Wii gaming device in 2006.
Sony’s PlayStation3, a similar product that requires glasses to create the 3-D effect, already carries a similar warning, as do 3-D TV sets made by Sony, Samsung and Panasonic.
Nintendo’s warning applies to kids that are 6 years old or younger. The Japanese company advised parents to block access to the game machine’s 3-D mode for these kids, while adding that it was OK for them to use the 3DS in 2-D mode.
The Nintendo 3DS is one of the first devices of any sort to project a 3-D image without the need for specialized glasses, which can be quite expensive in their own right. Many analysts believe this breakthrough will accelerate the adoption of home-based 3-D entertainment, a process that has been disappointingly slow to date.
Since 3-D movies first hit theaters in the 1950s, viewers have sporadically reported mild symptoms like nausea and dizziness, but there is zero scientific evidence that viewing machine-generated 3-D images (with or without the glasses) has a deleterious effect on the development of human eyesight.
The warnings appear to have arisen from the 3-D consortium, a Japan-based industry group comprised mostly of large Japanese consumer electronics companies. The consortium has issued guidelines which mention possible risks to young children whose eyesight is still developing. The guidelines don’t indicate an age when it’s supposedly safe for kids to begin viewing 3-D images.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Steven Rosenberg, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, said that all 3-D image-producing devices function similarly to present slightly different images to the left and right eyes, and rely on the brain to combine them into a 3-D image. He indicated there was no reason to believe that a requirement for specialized glasses would, by itself, have a deleterious impact on the development of the visual system in kids.
Separately, Kristina Tarczy-Hornoch, who directs the Vision Development Institute at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital said there might be theoretical reasons to worry about excessive exposure to 3-D images in kids less than 3 years of age. That’s the time when their visual systems are developing most rapidly, so it’s possible that excessive exposure to 3-D images could negatively impact development of normal binocular vision.