Do I Have a Vision Problem if I Can’t See 3D Movies?
Research has shown that up to 56% of those 18 to 38 years of age have one or more problems with binocular vision and therefore could have difficulty seeing 3-D*. In addition, about five percent of the population have amblyopia (lazy eye) and/or strabismus (eye turn) which makes 3-D viewing impossible.
Unfortunately, not all people are able to see 3 dimensional images (stereovision, stereopsis), or 3D. Many people see a 2 dimensional or flat world, and don’t know it because they have never experienced the pleasure of seeing in 3D. Vision problems such as strabismus (eye turn), amblyopia (lazy eye), or poor binocular skills (eyes drift apart) can interfere with the ability to see true 3D. In order to see in 3D, your eyes need to work together as a team to align the images from each eye, and then the brain fuses the images into a 3 dimensional image.
For example, the 3-D version of the movie Avatar has two images projected on the screen, each image seen by one eye. The images are then merged into one by your brain. If your eyes don’t work together, it will be very difficult to merge or fuse the images into 3-D. The technology behind the Avatar 3-D effects is based on the premise that the viewer has the ability to see 3-D.
If you have poor eye coordination, or a lazy eye, 3D television will also look flat to you (2 dimensional), and objects will not pop off the screen.
These vision problems affect more than just your ability to see 3D movies. They also impair depth perception, your ability to know where objects are located in space, eye hand and eye body coordination for driving and sports, and reading efficiency and comfort. Over time, if the eyes do not coordinate and work together, the brain ignores one image to avoid seeing double vision. This results in seeing a flat or 2D world.
But there is hope. Thanks to Optometric Vision Therapy, people who previously could not see 3-D are enjoying every special effect that 3-D movies such as Avatar and 3-D TV have to offer. There are methods to teach people to see in 3D. Using Vision Therapy and physical aids (lenses and prisms) as “training wheels,” you can eventually learn how to point both eyes to focus on the same space. Visual skills are definitely trainable, so you can learn better eye control and coordination through special Vision Therapy techniques.
One person who learned to see in 3D by correcting her vision problem is Dr. Susan R. Barry, professor of neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College. She lived most of her life stereo blind until she went through an Optometric Vision Therapy program at the age of 48, shares, “I am happy to say I am no longer stereo blind. I can enjoy the 3-D effects in Avatar as well or more than anyone else. The scenes of the forest receding way into the distance and the seeds from the Tree of Life floating in front of the screen were fantastic.”
In fact, Barry’s life changed so dramatically by gaining 3-D vision that she wrote Fixing My Gaze, to share her experience with the world. In an interview published in Scientific American, From 2-D to 3-D Sight: How One Scientist Learned to See, Barry shares, “Seeing in 3-D provides a fundamentally different way of seeing and interpreting the world than seeing with one eye. When I began to see in stereo, it came as an enormous surprise and a great gift.”
It is amazing to see people’s faces as they suddenly start seeing their world in 3-D after having been stereo blind. I have one patient who is a visual artist with esotropia. He said that his perspective changed dramatically when he learned to see in 3D through Vision Therapy. Most people take vision for granted and don’t realize how different their lives would be without 3-D vision. I would like to encourage anyone who has trouble seeing 3-D to find out more about how you can possibly learn to see in 3-D.
* Montes-Mico R. Prevalence of general dysfunctions in binocular vision. Annals of Ophthalmology. 2001; Volume 33, 3: 205-208.