3D TVs Face Safety Tests in Australia

Consumer advocates called for 3D televisions to be tested for safety before going on sale in Australia after claims that they could be hazardous, news.com.au reported Monday.

It was reported last week that regular exposure to 3D broadcasts could lead to problems with viewers' depth perception.
However one expert said 3D TV would be little different to watching regular television.

Consumer group CHOICE said the technology should be tested just in case, as manufacturers prepared to release the TVs in Australia this year.

"Before these TVs are made available they need to be proven safe for regular viewing for long periods of time," said spokesperson Elise Davidson.

Author and virtual reality expert Mark Pesce last week claimed it could lead to damage linked to a condition called "binocular dysphoria." The condition is caused by viewing 3-D screenings that require one's brain to trust certain depth perception cues and ignore others, creating the effect of immersion.

"This condition ... is the price you pay for cheating your brain into believing the illusion of 3D," Pesce wrote on Australian broadcaster ABC's Web site The Drum.

He said the condition was usually harmless but could become hazardous after regular exposure.

Pesce said he became aware of the dangers of binocular dysphoria while working on virtual reality headsets for gaming systems in the 1990s.

"Our testers realized children ... could potentially suffer permanent damage from regular and extensive exposure," he wrote.
"That's what the testers told Sega, and that's why the Sega VR system, which had been announced with great fanfare, never made it to market."

However University of Sydney associate professor Colin Clifford said the experience of 3D television was closer to regular television than virtual reality headsets.

"I think that the change from 2D to 3D TV is unlikely to be that significant," he said.

Clifford, an expert in visual perception, said the problem with virtual reality systems had to do with the screen being close to the eye.

In the natural world, the degree by which eyeballs move to see an object and the amount lenses curve to focus on it are in sync.
But with virtual reality systems, where the screen may be up close, but the object you're focusing on is at a distance - the two can be disconnected.

"With virtual reality set-ups you've got the screen right by your eye, but you're actually perceiving something in the distance," he said.

"You don't have that problem with a 3D TV or a 2D TV.

"Watching too much TV is probably not a good thing ... but as long as you do it in moderation I really can't see why 3-D would be worse."

Sony, which planned to launch several 3D TV models in Australia this year, said it already conducted safety tests on its technology.

"We’ve had a third party, specialized research institute to study the impact of 3D viewing to people’s health and received a report that they did not find any change of health condition which should be deemed as an issue," it said.

However details of the safety report, including whether it addressed binocular dysphoria, were not available.

For more information, see News.com.au.