By Larry Dignan
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?
Apr 11, 2010
I get motionsickness in buses. There should certainly be a healthwarning printed at the side of them. I also get very tired both looking at and listening to my neighbour, a warningsticker should be attached to him. Seriously, should everything be regulated just because one or two people have a problem? Should everybody suffer just because ONE person is a blithering moron? Example: My overregulating country just passed a law that sparklers may not be sold to persons under the age of 18 (eightteen), because they are so DANGEROUS. On the other hand, the authorities have not yet realized that a child of 5 can buy gasoline, and make a molotows coctail (well, in theory at least).
Sun glasses are claimed to provide protection from ultraviolet radiation. Any device making a protection claim is required to be regulated by the FDA. 3D movie glasses do not make that claim and therefor are except from FDA oversight. By the way, polarized glass does provide various amounts of UV protection.
I do experience motion sickness while using polarized 3D glasses - but I feel this is a result of the image/filming, not the glasses per-se. It is possible to use the 3D capability to provide reality presence in a film, or over-the-top effects show-off. Are you watching the film for the story and acting, or is it just an effects vehicle? I suspect both kinds of films will exist; at most, the customer needs to be informed which kind it is.
This is sensationalist journalism, pure and simple. Those provisos are standard, almost boiler plate, additions to any prospectus. They are even prompted for automatically in some form software, and are required by SEC regulation. In fact, companies often jump through hoops to manufacture these "caveats" just to give the impression of full disclosure. NOWHERE in this filing does the language even remotely imply any actual known, or supposed, or even speculated significant health risks. Nor does any research exist pointing in this direction. Taking all things in to account, especially the headline, it is hard to see this as anything other than fear click baiting and fear mongering.
Sorry if it may hurt their bottom line, but the safety of the public is a higher priority. I have encountered cheap reading glasses that caused my eyes to water, due to chemicals in their manufacture. I would hate to see (pun intended) a population of individuals with damaged eyesight due to advancing technology.
Great bit of reprting! Kudos to RealD for clear full disclosure. Love the acknowledgement that consumer beliefs, not reality, can drive or deter an industry's growth and innovation in general. The FDA should monitor the 3D phenom but unless clear residual health issues can be pinpointed they should let consumer influence prevail.