3D TVs Impact on Your Eyes

It seemed to take forever, but 3D television is finally starting to catch on. The technology for 3D TV has been around for over a decade at least, but for some reason it’s only in the past year or so that people have started to stand up and take notice and that the 3D revolution has actually started to make its way into the home.

There are many potential reasons for 3D TV taking so long. One reason is that it has only recently done away with the need for red and green glasses and changed to transparent ones, and partly because of blockbuster films like Avatar. And this has gone even further too with even handheld game consoles and computers joining in.

While this is all very exciting though, many people are reluctant to adopt the technology just yet. One reason is that it seems somewhat like a gimmick to many who think this might go the way of HD DVDs and beta max. The other concern of course, as ever, is health and in particular eye health. The big question then that could possibly put a bullet in 3D TV forever is whether it is bad for your eyes, and this is where things get a little fuzzy (see what I did there?). Here we will examine whether 3D TV is likely to be bad for your eyes, how to circumvent any potential problems and how the whole thing works. What we will find is that currently the only danger is eye strain, along with some potential developmental problems in very young children, but that more studies are needn’t on the subject.

How Does 3D TV Work?

Human beings have two eyes situated on the front of their head for the simple reason that it provides depth perception. By looking at how objects look from two angles our brain is able to triangulate their distance and thereby create an image of the world in three dimensions. Most likely we evolved this along with our primate cousins to help us jump and swing through trees and grab branches. The reason that you don’t get 3D with a normal TV then is that it’s a flat surface, and our eyes tell us that everything on it is the same distance away – because it is.

With 3D glasses however our eyes are tuned into different ‘channels’. In the old days this way achieved with red and green glasses so that we had a red channel and a green channel. The images on the screen would then be designed to show up in either red or green better and that would make us see a different picture in each eye. The new 3D TV technology simply uses a different technique – using horizontal and vertical strips in the plastic in order to tell our eyes to tune into vertical or horizontal images on the screen that are laid over one another.

These images are simply two films of the same thing that are just slightly off-set to about the same distance as the human eye. That then means that you end up viewing a different image of the TV screen in each eye and this provides you with the same depth perception. It’s mighty clever, but is it bad for you?

How This Could Cause Eye Strain

As you can see then, 3D TV is designed to work in a similar way to our own eyes and this means that we aren’t likely to experience any serious negative effects.

However what 3D TV might cause is eye strain which can cause short term tiredness for the eyes and potentially headaches. The reason for this is the disparity between the depth of the images and the depth of the TV screen. Because your eyes are seeing a TV screen that is flat, and 3D images on top of them, this can make it difficult for them to focus and to adjust correctly to the information. That then means a lot of eye muscle being worked and this can result in eye pains and headaches.

Likewise, the content of the 3D itself is often designed to play with the ability for things to pop out of the screen. In other words it often involves a lot of extreme shots that jump from extreme background to extreme foreground, and this then cause the eyes to again need to constantly adjust. This is just the same as holding a pen in front of your eyes and moving it rapidly backward and forward – after a while your eyes will get tired.

At the same time watching any TV can cause some problems with eye strain and the reason for this is that the eyes have to constantly adjust to changes in brightness and contrast. This again requires the small muscles around the eye to alter the dilation of the pupils and that can get tiring for your eyes and head. The combination of these things can mean that some people have a hard time with 3D TV.


One study commission by Samsung who actually make 3D TVs found that this was the case and recorded eye strain and tiredness in people who used 3D TVs. However media sources have vastly blown this out of proportion and pronounced 3D technology to be ‘bad for you’. While it’s true that it might cause eye strain, there is no proof that it can cause any lasting damage, and eye strain can be avoided as well if you use 3D sensibly.

Measures to Take

One thing that cinemas the world over are probably rejoicing about is that 3D cinemas are less bad for your eyes than 3D TVs – probably owing to the fixed position of the audience and the larger screen size. You can mimic this with 3D TV then by using bigger screens, and distancing yourself away while at the same time being sure to view it from the front and not alter the angle.

Meanwhile as with anything do be sure to take regular breaks from viewing to give your eyes a chance to relax, and especially when you first start using 3D TV before your eye muscles have had much ‘training’ from using it. If you want to choose TV and programs that are going to cause minimum strain, then you should opt for displays that have relatively low depth, this means that your eyes won’t be adjusting as much so you will be able to focus on more similar levels of depth. Things converted from 2D to 3D are often worse because they were never designed to be viewed in 3D and so have the biggest changes in depth.

You can also reduce the eye strain caused by all TVs by setting the brightness and the contrast low. This way the brightness of the TV won’t affect the brightness of the entire room meaning that your eyes won’t constantly have to adapt.


  1. Hi,

    It was good but did not say if 3D TV make your eyes weaker or permanently sick?


  2. I'm gonna stick with 2D for a while …

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Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki is a full time writer who spends most of his time in the coffee shops of London. Adam has a BSc in psychology and is an amateur bodybuilder with a couple of competition wins to his name. His other interests are self improvement, general health, transhumanism and brain training. As well as writing for websites and magazines, he also runs his own sites and has published several books and apps on these topics.

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