People should be careful about effects of 3D on kids

Nintendo president Saturo Iwata has highlighted concerns over health risks of the new 3DS handheld gaming device, though he insists the product is not dangerous.

“We are being proactive about informing our customer, even though it may not necessarily be positive for our sales,” said Iwata in a rare interview with the  WSJ.

Concerns over the safety of the glasses-free 3D technology used in the new version of the highly successful DS were raised last month after it was said on the Nintendo website that the development of children’s eyesight could be adversely affected by continuous use of the product.

No details of medical evidence were given at the time, though the firm said that children aged six or younger were not advised to use the device in 3D.  It is believed that the 3DS will in fact feature a sliding scale so as to allow users to switch the three dimensional functionality mode off.

Iwata, a former programmer who took control of the company in 2002, has presided over notable achievements in the firm’s history such as the unexpected popular of the Wii, as well as the previous incarnation of the 3DS.

With the handset going on sale in February 26 in Japan, before hitting shops in the US and Europe in March, he is acutely aware that by highlighting concerns over the glasses free 3D technology he is risking sales of the product being hit.

It appears that the threat of litigation is a contributing factor in the decision to inform customers of the potential risks ahead of its relese, though the WSJ was careful to state that while Iwata did not deny that litigation was a factor in the decision, he stated that it was not one of the “main reasons” as to why the public were informed.

Of course Nintendo is not the only brand to feature such disclaimers for 3D products, Toshiba has also had to state that its own 3D TV sets should not be viewed by small children

The warnings are, according to Nintendo, the result of consultation with unnamed experts, though little more is known.  Panasonic however stated at CES that it would be consulting with the Japanese government to enable a set of international guidelines for 3D products.

While Nintendo seems to be rather short on details, Karen Sparrow at the Association of Optometrics, told TechEye that the firm is right to warn people about the potential health risks attached to the 3DS.

“Although it is, to a certain extent, essentially the same as watching 3D images through other means such as at the cinema or on a 3D television, there are two factors which could give rise to concerns with the 3DS.  This is because the close proximity of the device could place more stress on eyesight than looking at a television set, meaning that eyes have to focus harder, as well as the fact that it is more likely to be used by children.

“The short term effects are the same for adults and children, such as headaches and double vision.  However, though children’s eyesight will usually reach its full strength by the age of around five, new research shows that the eye can remain flexible for a number of years more.

“This can be a problem when viewing 3D if you have a weaker eye. If a child spends excessive time using a device such as the 3DS it can effectively act as a negative exercise, as opposed to strengthening the eye it can leave it underdeveloped, causing a ‘lazy eye’.

“Although there is no hard scientific evidence to show the exact effects due to the newness of the specific technology – the first results will only begin to be shown in the next year or so, while the real effects may not be known for even longer – Nintendo are right to warn of potential harm of excessive use.”