December 26, 2016

3D and Headaches (2)

In last week's post, we introduced a recent Estonian study claiming that 3D cinema can contribute to headaches, and by association, this would hold true for experiencing virtual reality. In confronting this concern head on, I interviewed some international medical experts in the field of 3D, stereoscopic, and virtual reality vision. Find their analyses below:

Dr. Simonson
Dr. Jennifer Simonson, clinical director of the Boulder Valley Vision Therapy center and Senior Research Optometrist for Gerull Labsan  (OD, FCOVD) is an expert in using 3D to diagnose and treat vision disorders (and headaches). She explains the 'headache' problem in this way:
"This study takes in to account eyesight, but not vision. The key difference between 3D and 2D is the amount of coordination required of the eye muscles to align and focus the eyes at multiple distances. It is also more cognitive work in the brain for processing the difference in information presented to each eye to combine two different images into 3D perception. Stereopsis - depth perception - causes common 3D Vision Syndrome symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision and tired eyes. When a person has difficulty seeing 3D in a movie theater, it is commonly due to a vision problem with the coordination of the eyes. A normal movie is viewed on the screen, but in a 3D movie, the images appear to float off of the screen. Even with normal eyesight, if there is a difficulty with tracking, eye teaming, or focusing a person will be symptomatic with 3D Vision Syndrome."
Dr. Simonson concludes: “It may not be the media itself, but the visual dysfunction which contributes to headaches.”

Dr. Sheedy
That brings us to Dr. Jim Sheedy ( OD, PhD.), Director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, and an internationally recognized researcher. Dr. Sheedy worries about sample size, and he also points to vision disorders as the culprit, not the 3D stimulus itself:
“The findings presented in the article by Braschinsky et al., concerning 3D Cinema and Headache, cannot be conclusive because of the poor response rate of 21.6% (1293 respondents of 6000 questionnaires distributed).   Despite this shortcoming, the results are interesting.  The subjects were asked only about the symptom of headache.  We know that subjects with disorders of the visual system have symptoms such as eyestrain, double vision, blurred vision, and others related to the eyes.  The subjects in the study by Braschinsky et. al. were not given opportunity to differentiate these symptoms from those of headache."
Dr. Sheedy concludes: “The results are those that would be expected on the basis of vision disorders and the symptoms they cause.”

Dr. Maino
Dr. Dominic Maino (OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD and  Professor, Pediatrics/ Binocular Vision, Illinois College of Optometry/Illinois Eye Institute Distinguished Practitioner, National Academies of Practice, Leonardo da Vinci Award of Excellence in Medicine) offered his view in more detail, wondering about the five main points of the Estonian study:

1.)  Can 3D movies provoke headaches?  Dr. Maino explains: 
“I found it interesting that the reviewer did not say 3D movies actually caused the headache, as was often stated in earlier articles on this topic. Current research indicates that a faulty binocular vision system (vergence (eye teaming), accommodation (focusing), and oculomotor (eye movement)) dysfunction appears to be etiology of the headache when viewing a 3D stimulus.”
2.)  Do individuals who view 3D movies report headache during or after the movie 1.61 times more often than 2D movie viewers?  Dr. Maino concurs: 
“Those with binocular vision dysfunction are not usually adversely affected by 2D movies, so this finding should come as no surprise. “
3.)  Are the people at risk are mostly younger? Again, Dr. Maino agrees: 
“Younger populations typically have a higher rate of functional vision problems.”
4.)   Are 3D movie visitors with a previous history of headaches 4.17 times more prone to get a cinema-induced headache? Dr. Maino suggests: 
“Those with a history of headaches may also have undiagnosed vision problems as their non-3D movie related head pain.”
5.)  Is risk the highest for persons with a history of migraine headaches?  Dr. Maino explains: 
“Migraine headaches can have many different triggers. These triggers can include stress, consumption of different foods and how light is perceived (e.g. flickering) by the individual. A dysfunctional visual system is known to cause stress as well. Also those who experience migraines may just be more in tune and sensitive to all head pain no matter the etiology.”
Dr. Maino, in concluding, recommended that readers pursue more information on this topic by exploring the public health report issued by the American Optometric Association: 3D in the Classroom ( ). He also recommended that folks having difficulty seeing 3D cinema find doctors who can help by going to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development website ( or the American Optometric Association website ( 

Next week I will provide some of my own thoughts and conclusions on this matter...

December 19, 2016

3D Gives Me Headaches

I have to confess: something scared me. It scared me a lot. The source of my fear could be found in a recent Display Daily entitled “The Relationship Between 3D Cinema and Headaches.” What scared me were the cross-technology implications of the original Estonian study cited in this article. You see, the title could easily have been reworded in this way: “The relationship between 3D Virtual Reality and Headaches.” Given that much of the virtual reality world is also stereoscopic, I doubt the findings for a VR study would have been any different. And that’s not at all a helpful recommendation for a technology just now getting its legs in the industry.

So, I tapped into some high level expertise in order to bring a medical and scientific perspective to the table on this matter. I contacted some of the leading vision health experts in the world, asking them to respond to the Estonian research, hoping their advice would rescue us from this unwanted pseudodox. In next week's post, you will find their thoughts about this Estonian research, lest it be bruited about further. Stay tuned...

December 12, 2016


Some pundits feel that 3D in education has peaked. But it didn’t seem that way at all at ISTE 2016, where 3D technologies evidenced their strongest and most mature presence in the history of that event. The ISTE 2016 educational conference, with over 16,000 in attendance hailing from 76 countries, is the largest ed-tech conference held in the U.S. 3D was well represented in both the exhibit hall. Here are some of the players we saw in action in the expo hall:
AVRover. 3D stalwart AVRover, offering their mobile 3D classroom platform, maintained heavy crowds and high interest every time I passed by. They are now partnering with DTI (see below entry) in offering an autostereoscopic lab platform that can provide a 3D visualization ‘breakout’ experience, taking AVRover content into the computer lab or classroom centers. Doug Smith, CEO of AVRover explained:  "AVRover and DTI are working together on a technology where educators will teach one-on-many using a mobile AVRover with a screen. In this scenario, the teacher manipulates stereo 3D objects for the students; but then the students can go to multiple workstations in the classroom or in a lab and can work on that same content, with autostereo, glasses free monitors.”
Dimension Technologies. Co-located in the AVRover booth, Dimension Technologies, Inc featured their autostereo display platform. Having worked with NASA for over twenty-five years, DTI just received a new SBIR Phase II E grant from both NASA and Boeing to build a glasses-free 3D display for aerospace. Tom Curtin, Director of Business Development, pointed out: “Education is a natural fit for this technology.” The cost to the customers is expected to be a 60% premium over traditional displays. 
Eureka. They offered a strong presence showing mesmerizing mono and stereo 3D content to passersby. What’s new? It seems like DesignMate is rebranding itself in the U.S. as the more internationally known
Sensavis. Sensavis, a 3D visualization content company, ran a vibrant booth featuring some of their newest 3D simulations. It seems like they are showing a new simulation at each successive show, a remarkable pace for new content development.
Sterling Pixels. Sterling Pixels, a veteran 3D content company, broke away from the hidden corners of past booth locations to find themselves in a prime spot with much better visibility for this impressive company. 
Unity3D. Unity3D came to the exhibit floor with a fresh, vigorous vision to reach the education market. 
Visible Body. Although traditional 3D anatomy provider Cyber-Anatomy was noticeably absent from ISTE 2016, VisibleBody offered their rich visual anatomy lessons for STEM educators.

zSpace. Again winning Best of Show at ISTE 2016 from Technology & Learning magazine, zSpace continued in stride impressing large numbers of booth visitors. For a deeper dive, take a look at my most recent article with District Administration magazine entitled “Broadening the Impact of Technology.”

December 5, 2016

Unity3D Invests in Education

Unity is the well-known development platform for games, virtual worlds, virtual reality, and interactive simulations. Unity has long been a staple in student clubs, high school and vocational school curricular offerings, professional/ professional technical institutes, and even university computer science and game design programs. Increased fascination with gamification, virtual reality, STEM, and student-created content helps explain a recent swelling of customer interest for Unity. Unity3D, the manufacturer of Unity, has recently announced some education-specific breaking news:
A refreshed mission. Unity3D now explains that they are “dedicated to working with educational institutions worldwide to help foster innovative learning and exploration in variety of areas including game development and interactive experiences and content, including virtual reality.” 
A structural update. Unity  recently formed a dedicated Global Education unit. 
A certification for education program. This includes Unity-certified developer courseware, certification exams, and even certification events. 
A training and certification partner programUnity Technologies aims to give “academic institutions, training businesses, and resellers the opportunity to tap into the growing community of Unity developers seeking professional development and certification.” 
New academic pricing. Aimed at supporting game development programs, education software license bundles (i.e., educator pricing) are now available for purchase by academic institutions.
Free Resources for Educators. Unity has developed an Educator Toolkit aimed at helping educators to create, tailor, or shape a Unity teaching curriculum for their classrooms. 
An educator grant program. Free Unity education software licenses to help K-12 instructors implement game development courses.

On another note, I noticed that Unity is not shying away from the emerging virtual reality market either. It will be fun to see where they take us.