The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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3-D TV scare from Australia: Don't watch 3-D if you're fat, sleepy or drunk

April 23, 2010 |  4:50 pm

3D_TV According to this hilarious story from Variety, which would make for a great "Daily Show" sketch once Jon Stewart gets done lambasting Muslim extremists, Samsung's Australian website is warning 3-D TV viewers to stay away from the TV if "you are in bad physical condition, need sleep or have been drinking alcohol."

Yikes! Wouldn't that pretty much wipe out the possibility of most male sports fans ever having a chance to watch any 3-D programming? The Variety story adds that "aside from warning that strobe lights can trigger epileptic seizures -- a known risk for pretty much everything from TV screens to traffic lights -- it urges viewers to stop watching and consult a doctor if they experience any of a slew of possible symptoms, including dizziness, cramps or loss of awareness."

I don't know about you, but I think I had a very similar sort of "loss of awareness" watching a few hours of curling during the Winter Olympics. And I think the same thing happened during the first few episodes of this year's "American Idol." And I don't even have a 3-D TV. But Samsung is serious. The company's Australian head of marketing for consumer electronics said the safety warning decision was "made by Samsung Australia as a responsible vendor."

Opinion from 3-D experts was split. According to Lenny Lipton, whose StereoGraphics firm has sold 150,000 pairs of active-shutter 3-D glasses, "We never had a single complaint of the kind noted in the Samsung warning." Variety also talked to Martin Banks, a University of California professor of optometry and an expert in depth perception, who said "there's essentially no evidence to back up some of these concerns," though he acknowledged that the idea that 3-D viewing can contribute to motion sickness is "not ridiculous."

That probably explains why I got so queasy watching the second half of "Clash of the Titans."

As Variety pointed out, there was a celebrated incident in Japan where the slow strobing in an early version of active-shutter glasses induced seizures in some children. Even Banks' own studies have found that eye strain can result from the way 3-D forces viewers to converge their eyes on points at different distances. "As the viewing distance gets shorter, the likelihood that this conflict is going to cause problems increases," Banks concedes, which means that TV viewing could prompt more dizziness or eye strain than watching movies on a distant screen.  

I don't think this should stop you from shelling out a few thousand bucks on a new home 3-D TV system, but it does mean that if I'm going to start watching a lot of NFL games in 3D, I'm gonna have to get my running shoes out of the closet, stop boozing it up and start sleeping like a baby. If this is really true, watching 3-D TV sounds like a lot more work than I expected.     

Photo: Father Robert Reed is full of excitement during a preview of 3-D programming for the CatholicTV network. Credit: Associated Press / Catholic TV
 
 
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