Stereo blindness means no 3-D movies

"Approximately one in 10 Canadians isn't able to perceive 3-D visual effects in films," says local optometrist Dr. Alex Kennedy...

Dr. Alex Kennedy may be able to help people who can’t perceive 3-D effects.

As World War Z, Man of Steel and other three-dimensional (3-D) summer blockbusters captivate audiences, about 10 per cent of moviegoers could be in for a disappointing surprise – and not just poor acting and a predictable storyline.

“Approximately one in 10 Canadians isn’t able to perceive 3-D visual effects in films,” says local optometrist Dr. Alex Kennedy of Mosaic Vision Care in Courtenay. “The movie won’t necessarily appear fuzzy, but it will be like watching a regular movie with sunglasses on, and there won’t be any extra-dimensional effect.”

Known as ‘stereo blindness,’ this type of vision problem occurs when there’s a lack of co-ordination between eyes, says Kennedy.

“To view 3-D stereo images properly, your eyes need to work together as a team. So if one eye is really far- or near-sighted compared to the other, or there’s any misalignment of the eyes, stereo vision can be affected.”

While these issues could be inherent problems that have been present since childhood, an injury or even eye disease can also cause stereo blindness. That means it’s a good idea to see an optometrist if you’re not able to perceive a movie’s 3-D effects. He or she will test your range of depth perception and eye co-ordination capabilities and then determine a course of corrective action.

“Often people only become aware of it once they’ve been to a 3-D movie or had to take an eye exam for a job requiring stereovision, such as flying an aircraft,” explains Kennedy. “Unfortunately, we can’t fix every problem associated with stereo blindness. But depending on the cause, it could just be a matter of getting the proper corrective eyewear.”

Though there are no known long-term effects of stereo blindness itself, many people with the condition will experience some discomfort – like headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision or fatigue – when watching 3-D media.

“It’s not something that one should be overly concerned about, but it’s worth seeing if we can do something about it,” says Kennedy. “If we can help a few people further enjoy their cinematic experience, at least the visual part, so much the better.”

The B.C. Association of Optometrists recommends annual eye exams for children and seniors, and an exam every two years for those aged 19 to 64.

To make an appointment with Dr. Kennedy or an associate at Mosaic Vision Care, call 250-334-4512 or visit www.mosaicvisioncare.com. The clinic is located at 519G Fifth St. in Courtenay.

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