The first episode of Byteside for 2010 was a great look into future trends for the technology industry, but the highlight of the evening for me was when Mark Pesce – one of the pioneers of virtual reality, co-inventor of VRML and regular judge on The New Inventors – told the audience: “For All Of You Who Are Planning To Buy A 3DTV: For God’s Sake Don’t…”
He went on to explain:
Your brain has about 10 different clues which it uses to detect depth. When you’re in the theatre [watching a 3D movie]you’re only getting one clue – which is parallax.
So what happens is while you’re in the theatre your brain is ignoring all of the other depth cues, throwing the other nine away and just training on the one. This produces a situation which is known technically as “binocular dysphoria”.
Now what’ll happen is you’ll leave the theatre and your perception – your depth perception – will be screwed up. It’ll snap back to normal [but]it’ll take different times – because people are on a bell curve, some will snap back immediately, some will snap back in an hour and so on.
Now I want you to imagine what happens when you’re doing that to yourself night after night after night. And, of course, we realised we’d be giving these systems to six year olds whose brains are incredibly plastic, and would actually be training to a new set of visual stimuli.
None of this has been thought through by any of the consumer electronics companies who are intent on giving you 3D. And it’s not a problem if you’re going to see a movie. But if you’re going to be using it night after night in your living room, it’s actually probably quite unhealthy.”
Pesce knows what he's talking about. Aside from being an MIT dropout (according to Wikipedia at least), Pesce founded a company back in the early 90s which worked closely with Sega to create a virtual reality headset for the Megadrive. Back in 1994, he wrote about the notion of binocular dysphoria for Wired.
You can watch the relevant section of the show at the 43:50 mark, but really you should be watching the entire thing. And if nothing else, this should give you pause before you splash out thousands on a new TV later this year just because it has 3D.