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AOA and 3D @ Home Join Hands to Promote Vision Health

March 16th, 2011

The American Optometric Association (AOA) and the 3D @ Home Consortium released a memorandum of understanding yesterday at a symposium staged in New York. You may think these are strange bedfellows, but not really. The AOA sees the emergence of 3D as a great way to make people aware of the importance of good vision for personal success, while the 3D @ Home Consortium sees value in the research opportunities and marketing muscle that AOA brings to the table.

I was in New York for the daylong event, hosted by the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry. First, we were given a private tour of the facility, then we joined an afternoon symposium.

Dr. Michael Duenas, Associate Director for Health Science and Policy at AOA, blunted stated that the whole eye care system is broken. He then backed this up with some facts that made attendees shake their heads in wonderment.

Did you know, for example, that the simple eye chart exam we all have experienced has only 27% sensitivity? That means it is only 27% effective indentifying vision problems. Sure, it will catch the obvious near- and far-sighted problems, but many other issues will not be captured during this screening. Remarkably, only 17% of the patients that failed these eye chart screenings actually got proper care.

And, just as problematic, the test often gives a lot of false negatives. That means that children and parents think their vision is fine, when, in fact, it isn’t.

Duenas and others noted that 80% of learning is visual, so having the best vision possible is critical to learning. He contends that up to 25% of the behavioral and learning problems that lead to classifying the child as a special education student (i.e., disruptive behavior, truancy, school dropouts, and even treating children with drugs for ADHD) are actually related to undiagnosed vision problems. If he is right, the human and economic benefit of improved vision testing and treatment could be huge.

So how does 3D fit into the picture? For one, good 3D perception is a clear part of healthy vision. There are many ways good 3D vision can be impaired in humans. Conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (eye turn), or eyes that are misaligned vertically, along with a host of other problems and diseases can affect 3D vision. According to Duenas, many of these problems are treatable, if detected, and if detected early.

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One of the reasons for the collaboration is the growing popularity of 3D in theaters, at home and on the go. Many people are unable to see 3D and this can be a great opportunity to identify those people and suggest they get an eye examination. For example, one of the first activities that AOA plans is to create a series of public service announcements that will run in theaters. The PSAs will probably contain a series of images that ask viewers if they can see them properly. If you can’t, you may not enjoy the movie, and oh by the way, go see your optometrist to see if they can fix that.

A second initiative focuses on developing guidelines for the creation of good 3D content in the classroom, an area that is starting to grow. This again will provide an opportunity to identify those with 3D vision issues and get them directed toward an examination.

The third area will seek to identify research areas that need addressing. Steering Team 5 from the 3D @ Home Consortium has focused on 3D human factors and has now completed a survey of existing 3D research. The results of this survey will be used to guide the development of new research programs, goals and metrics and to work with the AOA to find research partners to fulfill these needs.

As part of the MOU, AOA also announced the launch of a new web site dedicated to all the above goals. For more information, visit www.3Deyehealth.org.

One take away message - stereoscopic 3D may actually be good for you. It can help to identify vision issues that can lead to lifelong problems, and it can even act as "exercise for the eyes" to improve visual acuity and agility. Who knew?

An expanded version of the coverage of this event will appear in the next edition of Large Display Report.

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