Smart Takes

Will 3D glasses be regulated by the FDA?

Will 3D glasses be regulated by the FDA?

Posting in Food

As our reality---and entertainment---experiences become increasingly augmented by technology it's worth asking about how health regulations will come into play.

RealD said in a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Food and Drug Administration could decide to regulate 3D glasses. The company also cited potential health risks as a worry spot for 3D.

RealD made the comments in its prospectus. The company, which makes the glasses and projectors used to watch 3D movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, filed to raise as much as $200 million in an initial public offering.

The prospects for the company generally look good and the growth rates our impressive. But for our purposes the big question is whether the FDA should regulate things like 3D glasses. As our reality---and entertainment---experiences become increasingly augmented by technology it's worth asking about how health regulations will come into play.

Here's a look at RealD's key passages from its SEC filing:

Currently, polarized eyewear, including our RealD eyewear, is not regulated by the FDA, or by state or foreign agencies. However, certain eyewear, such as non-prescription reading glasses and sunglasses, are considered to be medical devices by the FDA and are subject to regulations imposed by the FDA and various state and foreign agencies. With the rising popularity of polarized 3D eyewear, there has been an increasing level of public scrutiny examining its potential health risks. Polarized 3D eyewear, including our RealD eyewear, may at some point be subject to federal, state or foreign regulations that could potentially restrict how our RealD eyewear is produced, used or marketed, and the cost of complying with those regulations may adversely affect our profitability.

And on potential 3D health risks, RealD said:

Research conducted by institutions unrelated to us has suggested that 3D viewing with active or passive eyewear may cause vision fatigue, headaches, motion sickness or other health risks. If these potential health risks are substantiated or consumers believe in their validity, demand for the 3D viewing experience in the theater, the home and elsewhere may decline. As a result, major motion picture studios and other content producers and distributors may refrain from developing 3D content, motion picture exhibitors may reduce the number of 3D-enabled screens (including RealD-enabled screens) they currently deploy or plan to deploy, or they may reduce the number of 3D motion pictures exhibited in their theaters, which would adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and prospects. A decline in consumer demand may also lead consumer electronics manufacturers and content distributors to reduce or abandon the production of 3D products, which could adversely affect our prospects.

In addition, if health risks associated with our RealD eyewear materialize, we may become subject to governmental regulation or product liability claims, including claims for personal injury.

Now these risk factors may be overblown a bit. However, if the FDA regulates sunglasses it would stand to reason the 3D glasses may not be that far behind. Meanwhile, these 3D systems including the glasses will only become smarter over time. Spin this forward and you could see that the FDA may become interested in 3D as well as virtual reality setups and the like. After all, reality and entertainment will increasingly be augmented by technology. What's your take?

Related:

Will 3D glasses fly in the living room?

Share this

Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure