Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Archive for January 2011

Non-stereo Notes from the Flatlander Hairdresser

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I cut my own hair, and I don’t see 3D. Describing my process will be a great introduction into non-binocular depth cues.

First off: I avoid using electric clippers like the little guy on the left! Scissors work best for longer hair, and are more tactile.

Half of hair cutting is tactile, involving the sense of touch. We stereo blind are very gifted at judging distance by touch. So the act of pulling small sections of hair perpendicular to my head to the same distance as the section before is almost intuitive. It involves a sense of timing, too. There’s a sort of steady rhythmic slowness as I run my hand along my scalp, feel a section and slide my fingers up and out and hold, maybe on a subconscious count of three, then snip using the tops of my fingers as a guide.

Secondly, I can judge distance by 2D sight because I have trained myself to do so as an artist and graphic designer. The act of drawing translates the 2D world I see to a 2D canvas or monitor. So I can see 3″ long hair horizontally, vertically and even at an angle with foreshortening, and still intuitively know it is 3″ no matter the angle. (This is mostly known as linear perspective.)

Hairdressers have other tricks, like cutting off the same amount of hair from the ends. “How much do you want me to take off?” is a common question. Once they have taken that amount off one section, they pull up a part of that section into the next, and use it as a guide.

I start my haircut by pulling my hair forward around my face and cutting my bangs and sides where I want the edges to end just under my eyebrows and along my cheekbones. Then I start cutting sections from front to back, using the cut hair as a guide for the amount I wish to take off the rest.

Just like any binocular do-it-yourself hair dresser, I use a mirror on the wall to cut the front and sides. The image of myself that I see is flat, but I still can measure how much to take off and how long the remaining hair is from “3D to 2D conversion” practice. I’m constantly checking by pulling up sections from both sides at the same time at points where the hair is in perfect profile. I’m also studying how the cut hair lays on my head, turning to see if any missed part is sticking out.

I have to move my head to pull each section to a place where I can see it clearly, in perfect profile, usually to the outside edges of the flat image I see of myself. It is also along these edges that I can judge if anything is sticking out.

Since reading about motion parallax, I am moving my head after judging a section length to look at it from more than one angle, as wiki says pigeons do to judge depth [1]. The motion parallax is a new non-binocular cue I am using, and I make less mistakes (I have very forgiving hair!)

Just like the binocular hairdresser, I need a third hand to do the back. I turn my back to the wall mirror and use a hand mirror to see. I no longer need to move my head to gain motion parallax perspective; I can move the hand mirror. I have to put the mirror down to use the scissors, which means I cut by feel, cutting along the tops of my fingers and trying not to take some skin!

I have no clue if this whole experience would be easier in 3D. To you, the reader, I may sound like a square describing how he sees a triangle in the book, Flatland. Or perhaps my way of “seeing” isn’t so radically different after all.


Written by Lynda Rimke

January 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

“The Matrix” in my head

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You’re here because you know… feel…
that there’s something wrong with the world…
like a splinter in your mind…

Do you know what I’m talking about?

The Matrix.
What is it?

It is everywhere…
it is the world that has been pulled over your eyes
to blind you from the truth.

"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

This morning, in broad daylight, I body-slammed into the right side of a doorway, then over-corrected and bumped the left side on my way through. I turned around and looked at the door with my binasal-occluded glasses and said out loud “What was THAT?!”

“The Matrix” in my head is reprogramming itself to ignore the peripheral vision I first saw with the binasal-occluded glasses, that’s what. I’m running into a law of diminishing returns. It’s been weeks since I first giggled like a kid in wonder because I was so newly aware of the optic flow of the doorway going by as I walked through it. It’s been weeks since I’ve felt I was in a movie or video game while wearing the glasses and seeing motion parallax in action. I’ve gotten used to ignoring whatever is not directly in front of me, even with the occluded glasses.

How to keep seeing that heightened reality of the doorway when the psychological novelty of seeing for the first time has worn off? That is my new big question.

Maybe the answer is to wear the glasses a little less, to get the novelty to kick in again.

The larger answer is this: I need to work more consistently at widening my gaze both with and without the special glasses; to create a habit that, after days and weeks of conscious application, will become a part of me without thinking.

I’ve learned to correct my slouch while driving this way, and learned to squat to pick things up and save my back, so I should be able to learn how to maintain peripheral awareness, use my left eye more, make my eyes track better, etc. just by consciously and consistently making myself do these things more often than not.

That’s the training part. Neo went through training, lots of training.

Why do my eyes hurt?

You’ve never used them before.
Rest, Neo. The answers are coming.

My eyes do “hurt” for a bit, after I pushed them right and left and up and down with the new exercises I got yesterday. The goal is to condition my eyes to move without moving the rest of my body. I am now stretching muscles that have not been stretched before, and they will grow more supple over time, little by little. Those muscles feel a little tired after the exercises, but it is a good tired because next time they will be stronger and more able to do the work. That’s training.

In fact, I also get mentally weary. During yesterday’s office visit, after the umpteenth time answering whether the chart had gone up or down or right or left or up and right or down and left or up and left or down and right when a prism was applied, the brain-fog rolled in and I just couldn’t see movement anymore. My therapist knew to give me a break, to have me rest my eyes and brain. But we both know I will be able to sustain more visual awareness next time. That’s training.

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy…

You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it …

Were you listening to me Neo, or were you looking at the woman in the red dress?

I was …

"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

It is so easy to fall back into old visual habits of not seeing … of dullness to the realities around me.

This is the visual suppression system I have depended on for as far back as I can remember.

But if I’m ever to break free of the matrix of visual suppression in the back of my mind, I will need: endurance born of a strong will to break free, a vision-therapist guide to take me through training, and my fellow shipmates to encourage me along the way.

I know what you’re trying to do.

I’m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door, you’re the one that has to walk through it…

You have to let it all go, Neo, fear, doubt, and disbelief.




"The Matrix" ©Warner Bros.

My Misguided Nose

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I have an 11:00 nose! I never realized it, until a few days ago. Sailors and aviators use a clock face to measure the location of ships or planes on the horizon. Ships to starboard or the right of the bow are sighted at at 1:00 or 2:00, etc. Ships to the left are at 11:00 or 10:00, etc. I am the ship traveling to 12:00 with my bow pointed at 11:00, constantly fighting a one-eyed headwind. I am the plane that is constantly crabbing while moving forward! (But I’m not nearly as scarey as these Boeing 747’s!)

My self discovery about how my “straight on” face is actually pointing to the left is the result of reading Josh’s post about his first office visit for vision therapy. His simple and informative illustration struck me like an epiphany. I have been checking my head position ever since, and my nose does point to the left… constantly … anywhere from 11:00 to 11:30 or 30° to 15° off center. Josh comments:

Because I use mostly my right eye, I’m always positioning myself off center of what I am looking at. That way, I can get things directly in front of my right eye. I have a hard time seeing things that are centered in front of me; I don’t know which eye to use. I prefer things slightly to the side. Take a look at the following illustration:

right-eye centric viewing

Here I am, looking at a “thing.” My left eye is being suppressed, and my body has turned so that my right eye easily faces the object that I am looking at.

This works okay, but it can lead to some confusing situations. If I’m talking to two people standing next to each other, they have hard time telling who I am looking at.

Josh’s second illustration, where folks are wondering who he is making eye contact with, is more pronounced due to his exotropia, where his left eye turns out, not in. The vernacular name is “wall-eyed” instead of “cross-eyed.” When I look at someone out of my right eye, my eyes appear fairly straight. My left eye does not turn out, like Josh’s, but in very slightly, toward the person I have centered in my right eye field of vision. Their confusion is more subtle, because they are not getting eye contact from both my eyes, because I am still suppressing my left eye and not making contact.

Josh’s prognosis for success is a great deal better than mine, and it is evident in his blog, as he is moving along towards fusion at a much faster pace. I admit that Josh is my son’s age, so youth just might be another factor!

I was introduced through Dr. L. Press to “Squinty Josh” and “Strabby” Sally at the Vision Helps blog last week, when Dr. Press kindly featured the three of us as blogging “sons and daughters of Stereo Sue.” Josh is another adult strabismic who is undergoing vision therapy, and started therapy and blogging the same week as I did. Sally will be starting therapy soon, and just started blogging in January.

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 10, 2011 at 9:11 am

A break through the impasse means recommitment

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My developmental optometrist talked with Sue Barry’s developmental optometrist last week, and wanted to try “one last test” yesterday morning to see if she could nail down a fusional area … any starting point … beyond a shadow of a doubt. I am happy to report that the “one last test” worked!

We worked in a darkened room with the penlight again, with only a red filter over the right eye. With some effort (to “get out of my head”) I was able to see the light as a rosy red about four inches from my nose. She then tried the Worth 4 Dot Test, and I was able to see all four dots, two red and two green with red green glasses at about the same 4″ distance, and track them up and down and back and forth … my binocular vision starting point found at last!

We had a “high five” moment in celebration after this fourth hour-long session. I certainly appreciate her perseverance! It’s been like panning through a huge stream filled with sand and stones to find this one gold nugget: a starting point!

Now I will need that same perseverance and more. I know in my head that vision therapy is only going to succeed if I work in tiny increments. And it will take many sessions to gain small pieces of ground. Before I can do orthoptics like the Brock string exercises, I will need to work on stabilizing my eyes without suppressing. I also will be working on increasing my peripheral awareness and gaining visual cortex and gross motor coordination, starting next week.

I am still wearing the binasal occluded glasses as much as I can around the house. I did stop wearing them over the holidays, and noticed a lapse in coordination: more ankle rolling, wall touching or hugging going down the stairs, and jerky course adjustments when going through the kitchen doorway in order to avoid colliding with either the buffet sticking out on the dining room side, or the countertop on the kitchen side. All this clumsiness vaporizes when I wear the glasses!

When I put the glasses on, it also feels as if I am giving my eyes a bit of a rest. They don’t have to work as hard to suppress, because there is a convenient foggy area for each eye that is doing the suppressing. Instead, I automatically see everything around the edges of my glasses without having to work at it. If I wear the glasses long enough, and switch to my other pair without the occlusion, my field of vision remains wider for a minute or two.

Reading, writing and close work inhibit peripheral awareness. I am going to start taking eye and stretch breaks more frequently. I am going to have to hunt down some freebie break reminder software for my iMac and macbook.

I am also re-committing to aerobic hooping, a relaxing “out of my head” activity. Hoop Girl has been my inspiration. I’m going to add relaxation and stretching exercises to my routine. I’ve only managed to hoop one or 2x a week so far since the holidays. My goal is at least 3 half hour sessions a week!

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 5, 2011 at 9:38 am

Nintendo 3D DS: Binocular Screening for Tots?

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The newest non-news in the world of 3D technology is that Nintendo has issued a warning (in kanji) for children aged 6 and under not to play it’s new 3D DS gaming system, due to hit U.S. stores in March.

The Wall Street Journal states that Nintendo joins Samsung, Toshiba, Panasonic and Sony in following “the voluntary safety guidelines set out by the Japan-based 3D consortium, an industry group of major Japanese electronics companies. The guidelines say that young children’s eyesight are still developing, but do not specify the age at which they can start looking at 3-D images.” [1]

Nintendo recommends that parents use parental controls to turn off the 3D settings for children six and under, but they can’t be serious when they offer a game that includes a cute 3D puppy that will reach up to lick a child’s face: “Nintendogs uses the built-in camera and facial-recognition technology to enable puppies to react to your real-life movements, mimicking your head tilts and jumping up to lick you as you lean in.” [2]

Since all digital 3D technology is new, no research exists to back the claim that 3D viewing may harm binocular vision development. But common sense should dictate that any activities that discourage binocular vision development should be done in moderation, which includes reading in excess, close work like sewing and coloring, most school work, television viewing and video-gaming in general. What stimulates binocular vision development are activities done out of doors: playing Frisbee or softball, riding a bicycle, playing tag and playing on monkey bars, for example.

No one else has mentioned the big bonus I see to glasses-free 3D tech coming into the home: 3D vision screening. Children who exhibit stereoblindness or have trouble seeing 3D will be diagnosed earlier. “Mommy, I don’t see the puppy reach out” or “Everything looks blurry, daddy” might just get a parent to take their child to a developmental optometrist. Parents will become aware of binocular vision development problems much sooner.

Not seeing the 3D images clearly is only one of several problems that can occur when children or adults are not binocular vision ready. Carol L. Hong, OD, FCOVD states in her article “Is Your Child Ready to Experience the Magic of 3D at Home?”

Whether you are in a movie theater or watching TV on your new 3D screen, you should still keep an eye out for any signs of a headache, nausea, or dizziness during or shortly after 3D viewing. It is recommended that you test drive 3D TV at your local electronics store before purchasing so you can watch your child to see if he can see the special 3D effects.

One can only hope and pray that, with increased awareness of stereo blindness or lack of 3D readiness, parents will be directed to a local developmental optometrist (an optometrist with FCOVD after their name), who has the most training and expertise to help a struggling young child develop a strong binocular vision system with vision therapy.

Additional insights were posted today on the College of Optometrists for Vision Development Blog

Beginning with studies at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, evidence to date seems to pinpoint adult-like stereoscopic development by six years of age. Exercising caution until we know more about these effects seems prudent, and Nintendo is not the first company to do this.

Parents who are concerned about their child’s readiness to view 3D movies, television and games should read “Is Your Child Ready to Experience the Magic of 3D at Home?” by Carol L. Hong, OD, FCOVD

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm

My Grass Roots New Year’s Resolution

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My problem (times many)

Every optometrist who has examined my eyes since 1969 has seen my eyes alternate and turn in under occlusion and said something under their breath like “Oh!” or “Hm-mm!”— which establishes my routine awkward moment. Not one was trained to discuss my odd visual behavior, because they been schooled to believe there is no medical or vision therapy solution for the well-established alternating esotropia they have just discovered in their new patient.*

Over the years I have learned to quickly let them know I am aware of the problem to dispel the awkwardness: “I see out of one eye at a time,” I say. Then they take a deep breath and continue to go about their business of prescribing lenses so that I can see clearly out of each eye, because that is all they can do, and that is all I have come for.

Because each eye can be corrected to see clearly, the prevailing mentality is “Alternating esotropia is not a big enough problem to fix.” We are conditioned to “get by” with our visual cortex malware that suppresses half our vision by alternately turning in each eye. We are not encouraged to seek a treatment that can produce normal, healthy, brain-power-freeing binocular vision.

The larger problem

And, because we haven’t questioned the verdict and knocked on enough doors seeking a treatment solution, there is no market for a solution, resulting in little to no research and advancement in treatment, which means reliable treatment plans are not available to developmental vision therapists who would use them if they could … even today.

Taking steps towards solutions

However, in this day of open information, it is now more acceptable to question any medical diagnosis that thwarts the basic human need to live our lives to our fullest potential.

The internet makes it much easier to research and to explore solutions. Targeted social networking (online support groups and forums for example) can work together to develop a market and create a mandate for clinical research that will give optometrists and developmental vision therapists the tools they need to serve us with new technologies and treatments.

The foundation of Christopher Columbus’ work was finding favor for his exploration in the face of established flat-earth consensus. Christopher Columbus became and expert in his field, and presented such a positive account of his round earth theory that he eventually won the hearts of his King and Queen, and that made all the difference. (Perhaps he had a big amygdala.)

It is in that spirit of building consensus that we, the adults with vision issues that have not been treatable, can work together with willing developmental vision therapists, optometrists and opthamologists to gain the resources to realize our hopes and dreams; not only for ourselves, but for the youth, children, toddlers, infants and those yet to be born with similar vision impairments.

We must gather evidence of the need. We must work together to propose advances in clinical research. We must work hard to encourage the discovery and application of new technologies. We must labor to share every vision breakthrough in scientific and inspirational ways.

I am working on a social network proposal to this end, researching the tools available on the internet to harness a grass roots movement, and networking to present the idea to the non-profit groups already aligned with the cause.

This blog is only one many tools available. Creating a social network would allow dedicated consensus builders to cross pollinate and create much needed synergy. I am a self-taught information architect by profession, but will need to harness the advice of twitterers, bloggers and social network administrators and monitors, and many others with expertise to make a grass roots movement happen.

Wish me luck. Better yet, say a prayer!

*Confession: Since my favorite optometrist retired, I’ve too often taken advantage of places that offer inexpensive eye exams with the best glasses or contact lens deal. I’m seeing now that I need to reform!

Written by Lynda Rimke

January 1, 2011 at 12:13 pm

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