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Visual Edge

  • 3D Summer Blockbusters: Friends or Foes?

    As the summer presses on, we are bombarded with an increasing number of movies boasting cutting edge 3D technology. In the last few weeks alone, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, Cars 2 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 have all come out in 3D. The improved 3D technology has redefined not only the way we view movies but the entire movie going experience, including cost, comfort and even what we wear. While summer blockbusters become increasingly realistic and intense, some consumers complain of discomfort when viewing movies shot in 3D. It is important to factor in the potential long term consequences for our eyes during and after enjoying 3D entertainment.


    Though there have not been many studies done on the effects of 3D, the few have concluded that there are no harmful side effects in adults of watching a movie on the big screen in 3D. This is mostly because the viewer sees the effects at safe distance and on a large scale. However, no one can predict the effects of proposed 3D home television, video games and smart phones, where the viewer will be closer to the screen forcing the eyes to focus and processes faster and more intently.

    Some experts have claimed that watching movies in 3D can actually help diagnose vision problems. 3D technology requires each eye to focus on a separate image while the brain fuses them together. Side effects like dizziness, double vision or not seeing the effects at all could indicate that the eyes do not work together properly. On the other hand, these complaints could stem from brain confusion when reflexes like balance are called into action while the body remains still. Similar to motion sickness, the brain automatically triggers the body to respond to the events that the eyes indicate. While you consciously override these signals by remaining firmly planted in your seat, muscle and brain confusion cause you to feel dizzy or sick.

    So far, there has been no proof that seeing a movie in 3D has any long term, negative effects on the eyes for children or adults. However, as 3D technology is increasingly used in personal arenas like televisions or computers, we must stay vigilant in documenting discomfort during and after the experience. At any rate, it is not recommended for children under the age of three to experience 3D technology as their eyes are not developed enough to cope with such intense binocular stress.

  • Virtual Learning: The Wave of the Future?

    The virtual education trend is sweeping the nation. Earlier this year, Florida students walked into school expecting the usual routine: the teacher in front of the classroom ready to instruct the students in the subject of the period. Instead they were greeted with rows and rows of computers and a “supervisor”: they were going to be taking class online, no teacher necessary. In California, a measure is on the table to expand virtual education to the point where each student would be required to take a portion of their classes online.  However, in most cases, they would not be able to chose which ones they attend online and which ones are instructed by a physically present teacher.
    While it seems like a fairly clear cut issue, there are many caveats that need to be taken into account before we can truly decide what to think of this new form of instruction.

    First, is learning online an inevitable educational evolution? The argument can (and has) been made that students have incorporated technology into every other part of their lives EXCEPT education. The amount of time Americans spend in front of a television or computer screen is at an all time high, not to mention the time spent interacting with smart phones, iPhones, iPads, mp3 players and other devices. Should education be the only thing left to brick and mortar institutions?

    Second, how will schools be held accountable? Today, schools are funded based on their students attendance. A student must be at school, in a seat, for a minimum of four hours for the school to get government funding for that individual. However, online, it becomes more difficult to track how long a student is working, if the student is working at all and if it is the student doing the work. Aside from assignments required to be completed within a certain period of time and tracking the time a certain webpage is open or logged into, there is no way to know how much time a student spends “in school” and therefore no way to tell if and how much funding is appropriate.

    Third, can education be measured by hours? Obviously, some individuals require longer or shorter periods of time to learn a lesson. Some argue that students that learn more quickly can finish classes and assignments faster without having to waste seven hours a day at school. Others argue that the most important thing is whether or not a student learns and retains the information, not how long it takes them.

    Fourth, how will the quality of education be affected? In Florida, students are able to take online classes from schools located outside the state from educators that are not certified. In San Diego, students take class online but can meet with a California-certified when they need extra help or tutoring; the school is based in and operates solely in San Diego.  It is unclear how a state can regualte the quality of education provided by online schools and classes.

    Obviously, every state will deal with this issue differently but it is up to us as educators, parents and citizens to know all the facts before we send our children off to “school,” wherever it may be. How much freedom we give our children is up to us and the type and quality of education they receive is directly affected by how active we are in it.

  • Protect Your Eyes in the Snow

    With the influx of snow the United States has been hit with this year, comes an inevitable rise in the popularity and execution of traditional winter sports like snowboarding, skiing and sledding. However, heightened exposure to snow can have an ill effect on your eyes, ranging in symptoms from red, dry eyes to “snow blindness” to pterygium and macular degeneration. For this reason, goggles are recommended during prolonged exposure to snow. Here are some tips on how to choose goggles:

    Fit: Goggles should be a snug yet comfortable fit. There should not be any open spaces or gaps, exposing your eyes to wind, sun, snow and potentially flying ice during a blizzard or crash.  The elastic band should wrap tightly around your head, but there should not be any pressure points.  Remember, a bit of discomfort in the store means hours of heightened pain or discomfort on the slopes.
     

    Lens Color: Amber, gold, orange, yellow-orange and brown are the most versatile lenses; they function well in low to moderate lighting and are great for recreational skiers. Rose colored or light-yellow lenses are more for grey days and low lighting as they give the most contrast. Black, grey and green lenses function best under bright conditions and offer the most protection from rays reflected off the snow; additionally they provide the truest color definition.

    UV Protection: As mentioned repeatedly in this blog, there is a difference between UVA, UVB and UVC rays. Your goggles should protect against all three.

    Shape: Goggles are typically either “flat” or “spherical.” The spherical shape is employed by the highest end goggles because it is curved both horizontally and vertically, thus sloping in towards your ears as well as up toward your forehead and down towards your cheeks. This gives you more peripheral vision, decreases the likelihood of fog with a lens that is farther from your face and evens out glare. Flat lenses only curve horizontally towards your ears, but work just fine for most skiers.

    Fog: Most goggles come equipped with double lenses – the inside lens stays warm next to your face and the outside one absorbs the cold air, decreasing the likelihood of fog. Don’t even bother buying single lens goggles. Some manufacturers coat the inside lens with an anti-fog substance while others include vents to increase air ventilation within the goggle. Generally, the more vents the better; remember to keep all vents open and keep your goggles on for as much of the day as possible to eliminate the chances for fogging.

    Polarized Lenses: Polarization is a good option to reduce glare and reflection but can also hide the difference contours of soft snow versus hard ice.

    Other Things to Consider: If you wear a helmet, bring it with you when you fit your goggles, or if possible, buy them as a set (remember the band of the goggle goes on the OUTSIDE of the helmet). If you wear glasses, many goggles are made specifically to fit over them; there are also goggles with inserts intended for prescription lenses and always the contact lens option.

    So whichever snow sport you choose to engage in this winter, make sure you are protecting yourself with the correct equipment for your intentions.  The right goggles are just as important as comfortable snowboard pants, a warm jacket and lunch at the lodge.  Have fun out there and be safe!

  • iPads are Proliferating as Educational Tools

    Recently, there has been an uptick in the trend toward using the latest technology as an educational tool, rather than fighting against it. Schools across the country have started using both public and private funds to provide iPads to students and teachers alike.

    Despite a lack of research on new technology’s efficacy in a learning environment, proponents believe that the iPad has the ability to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Learning becomes fun and more engaging due to the “trendiness” of the new technology. Teachers are excited by the ability of the device to help teach everything from math and reading to astronomy and history, all through multimedia applications. Students like the size and weight of the device, as well as the ability to work with textbooks, communicate with teachers and turn in homework online.

    ipads for reading

    However, the influx of technology as an educational tool has yet untold ergonomic consequences. As of now, people are still unclear about how to hold the iPad; some libraries are even holding eReader and iPad workshops because of its potentially harmful design. For one thing, the iPad weighs too much for one hand operation, but introduces bad posture when placed on a flat surface or in one’s lap. Gazing down at the iPad at a 90 degree angle leads to neck and eye strain while holding it up can cause arm, shoulder and back pain.

    cell phones for reading

    In addition to the poor ergonomics that go with owning an IPad, there is additional concern for the growing trend in Computer Vision Syndrome in children. Computer Vision Syndrome is characterized poor or difficult vision caused by long hours focusing on a computer screen and often results in nearsightedness or myopia. This is especially cause for concern in children, whose eyes are not developed enough to handle the strain put on them by the glare of computer screens.

    bad reading angles

    With the proliferation of iPads and other technology in the school environment, we are left to wonder what this may (or may not) do to young eyes focusing on the device and computers at school, the computer or tv at home and on cell phone screens for countless hours in between. It remains to be seen what the long term effects of this will be. For now, we can take preventative measures such as completing frequent eye exams, limiting the amount of time spent in front of a screen at home and monitoring the ergonomics and lighting in work settings. These things should be taken into account both for ourselves and our children. iPads are proliferating as educational tools.  Don't get left behind!

  • Annual Eye Checkups

    Did you know that you are supposed to get an eye exam every year after starting at age 20? After your teens, your eyes are fully developed and you need annual eye checkups to ensure they stay at the top of their game. This is especially important after you turn 40 and as age-related vision loss occurs more rapidly. Yearly exams will not only detect problems or disorders already in existence, but can also help prevent future problems and prescribe corrective treatment. Oftentimes, once symptoms occur, irreversible damage has already been done.

    According to a recent survey, sight is the sense that an overwhelming majority of Americans (80 percent) fear losing the most. However, 86 percent of those Americans that already have vision problems or eye disease do not actively seek routine eye exams. This is partly due to the fact that eye exams are not covered by Medicare and/or many health insurance plans. However, advocates, such as Lighthouse International, are organizing demonstrations to try to get that changed; the main argument being that eye health problems wind up being more costly than people think: 16% of broken hips are due to vision issues.

    Eye exams are especially important for those patients considered “at-risk,” including those with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease. In addition to early detection and prevention, regular eye exams can also lead to early diagnoses of more serious diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis or brain tumors.

    So add to your list of New Year’s Resolutions to take care of your eye health this year. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month as well, so schedule an appointment with your optician today and save yourself from vision loss and disease later.

  • Happy Holidays!

    To all our valued customers, followers and friends,
    We at Visual Edge would like to wish you and yours a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season. We hope your holidays are filled with laughter and cheer and that all the people you love are nearby or close to your heart. We hope you stay safe this season, whether you are taking a big trip or staying home with family. Wherever you are, be sure to take this opportunity to celebrate all the wonderful blessings in your life.


    Happy Holidays!
    Sincerely,
    The Visual Edge Team

  • The Importance of Extra-Curricular Reading

    As students head back to school this fall, memories of long, lazy summer days drift away and students and parents alike look forward to the new school year with hope, excitement, sometimes dread, and many expectations. The first couple weeks back are a re-adjustment to waking up early, balancing time spent at school, with friends, on homework and participating in extracurricular activities. Any school age youth will tell you that the adjustment is a tough and sometimes painful one to make while they struggle to create a new academic and social schedule. However, what is mostly on the minds of teachers is how much they will have to re-teach students in the first couple of weeks. Multiple studies over numerous decades have shown that students in every socioeconomic class experience a summer learning loss, nicknamed “summer slide,” and that it is important to keep children involved in reading, even when they are not in class.

    Educators are aware that children lose considerable knowledge over the summer months.  In fact, most kids can lose up to 2 months of math retention while children from lower income areas and families can fall up to 3 months behind in reading while their more affluent counterparts tend to actually improve their reading over the summer. During the span of grammar school summers, underprivileged children can fall as far as three years behind other economically better-off children.

    Solutions have ranged from everything from summer school to 1-2 day enrichment programs to simple parent involvement. A recent study has shown that solely a student’s access to books makes a world of difference. A recent study by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville demonstrated that when low income students were allowed to chose free books for four consecutive summers, they scored remarkably higher on achievement tests than children who were given only activity books. The difference was even higher amongst the least affluent in the study. Another interesting point made by the Tennessee study was that scores improved even when student’s weren’t participating in “academic” reading. That is, most children chose books on Brittany Spears or “The Rock” and still increased their reading capabilities.

    Other solutions have included free interactive reading sessions at public libraries, so-called “Adventure Camps” at schools and free or discounted book drives and exchanges. Whatever the method, educators are well aware of the effects of “summer slide,” but it is up to private financers, the government, the education system and, ultimately, parents, to ensure our students stay competitive. Foreign students stay in school as much as four weeks longer than their American counterparts and the toll is shown in diminished reading and math scores. The moral of the story: keep your kids engaged with reading as much as possible while they’re not in school, even if it means allowing them to read biographies of Brittany Spears or Hannah Montana.

  • Protect Your Eyes When You Get In That Tanning Bed

    Ever since Coco Chanel revealed her bronzed models in the 1920s, Americans have been in constant search of the perfect summer glow. Regardless of weather conditions or time spent relaxing on the beaches, we’ve engineered new and increasingly dangerous ways to enhance our natural coloring. For years it has been apparent that increased exposure to UVA and UVB rays is directly proportional to the likelihood of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the cause of over 8,000 deaths a year. In fact, indoor tanning has become so detrimental to the health of our country that the United States government is in the process of imposing a 10% tax increase on all tanning salons and their patrons as part of the new health care bill. But there is another disadvantage to indoor tanning, one that often goes unnoticed – the damage it can do to our eyes.

    protect your eyes

    The College of Optometrists in London recently reported that tanning beds are equally, if not more so, damaging to our eyesight than our skin. The human eyelid is too thin to protect the eye from UV rays, both indoors and out. Therefore, by increasing exposure to these harmful rays in tanning beds, we put our eyesight at further and unnecessary risk. Not only is the delicate skin of the eyelid at a higher risk for burning, but it also is not thick enough to protect the eye from potential burns to the cornea, cataracts and retina damage.

    Symptoms of cornea burns include eye irritation and conjunctivitis, which can lead to tearing of the eyelids and blurred vision. Cataracts cause a cloudy surface on the eye which must be removed through surgery and retina damage typically requires surgery to alleviate serious vision problems.

    The College of Optometrists recommend the use of FDA-approved goggles or “wink-ease” provided at tanning salons, for those that simply cannot live without a bronzed exterior. While this solution protects the eyes from UV rays, it does nothing to protect the body from other harmful effects of prolonged exposure.

    protect your eyes
    So if you have to use a sunbed, remember to be as careful with your health as possible. Always wear protective goggles, as merely closing the eyes does not protect the eyes at all and neither does draping a towel over the face. Avoid excessive use and don’t stay in long enough to burn. When it comes to your health, you only get one chance.

  • Electronic Reading Screens

    In the age of the iPad, Sony Reader, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and countless e-book reader knock-offs, one can’t help but wonder what the consequences of the transition from reading the printed page to reading solely on electronic screens will be. Already, Americans spend countless hours gazing into computer screens at work, watching larger screen TVs at home and reading the tiny screens of phones and iPods throughout the day and night. Now, with the introduction of multiple new electronic readers and thousands of titles available in e-Book form, we can spend those precious few spare moments we used to use for delving into a good book staring at yet another electronic screen. These electronic readings screens are taking over our lives.

    electronic reading screens

    For years the reading community has argued that reading online is an altogether different experience from reading printed text. In print, there is a visible and tangible beginning, middle and end whereas on the Internet, a reader decides where the story starts, stops and changes course completely. In this way, readers are either more distracted consumers of information or extraordinarily adept navigators through a world of increasingly opinionated and individualized content. Some argue that e-Books offer a way to jump directly into a writer’s content because there is no sense of how much material is left before a climax while others argue that a tangible relationship with a hardcover book puts the reader in a more relaxed place where he is free to truly focus on the material and task at hand. Regardless of the effects on reading however, e-Books are beginning to outsell hard covers on sites like Amazon.com leading some to believe the demise of books and potentially meaningful reading is on the horizon.

    electronic reading screens

    Another concern about all this screen reading is possible degradation of one’s eyesight. Frequent computer users often complain of dry eyes, eye strain and blurry vision as well as headaches and neck and shoulder pain. It remains to be seen whether long term vision impairment will result from heavy electronic consumption as the proliferation of screens in everyday life is a relatively new phenomenon. However, there are steps that computer users can take to help deal with the symptoms of eye strain:

    • Take breaks from the screen every 30-60 minutes. Looking at objects off in the distance every so often restores the eye’s ability to focus.
    • Place the computer monitor or other screen 24”-30” away.
    • Keep your screen below eye level to avoid “bright eyes” which cause the eyes to dry out faster.
    • If you have to look between hard copy and the screen often (as with data entry), place the hard copy on a stand at equal height and distance as the computer monitor.

    Usually the symtoms of eye discomfort are born from intently looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time, which generally reduces the speed of blinking. The above steps can greatly reduce eye fatigue and stress and should be considered not only in working environments, but also when entertainment is generated from the fluorescent light of any type of electronic screen.

    electronic reading screens

  • All the Benefits of Solar Lighting

    As the warm summer months press on, we spend more and more time outdoors savoring the temperate climate and refreshing sunshine. However as the day slowly fades into night, we are faced with one of summer’s most consistent dilemmas: the sun is gone but the atmosphere is still warm enough for outdoor activity. Outdoor lighting systems can be expensive, confusing and sometimes even require the help of a trained professional. An easy, inexpensive and environmentally friendly solution is the installation of high quality solar lights, spotlights and decorative bulbs. The list of benefits of solar light goes on and on, but the following 4 reasons are enough to convince any skeptic of their practicality.

    Safety
    Solar light bulbs never get hot because there is no electricity involved in their production of light. Therefore, they are completely safe for use on the ground or adjacent to any material. Additionally, pets, children or clumsy guests will not burn themselves on an accidentally touched bulb. The solar lights do not require the use of electricity, so there are no cords to deal with and therefore possibly trip over. It’s impossible to get electrocuted by a solar lamp.

    solar lighting

    Convenience
    As there are no cords and no electricity, solar lights can be placed anywhere outdoors with no regard for a nearby power source. There is no need to worry about surge protector configuration or planning clever cord camouflage. All the bulbs require is direct sunlight during the day and they will shine effectively through most of the night.
    Most solar lights have automatic darkness sensors, so they turn on and off on their own. You don’t have to unplug them or worry about leaving them on and wasting valuable electricity.

     

     

    solar lighting

    Cost Effective
    Complicated outdoor lighting systems often wind up costing more than their worth in wasted electricity costs. Solar energy is completely free and reuseable. Once the lamp is installed, there is no further cost or maintanence. Most lights consist of one to two pieces so there is minimal if any upkeep and negligible potential for damage.

     

     

     

    solar lighting

    Environmentally Friendly
    Solar lighting units are equipped with a solar panel that “stores” the energy from the sun’s rays during the day and then “reuses” it at night to light the bulbs. As the sun is the Earth’s most readily available and reuseable natural resource, there is never a fear of running out or using up too much of its energy.

     

    solar lighting

    Solar lights come in various sizes, shapes and colors, so in addition to being safe, convenient, cost effective and environmentally friendly, they are also completely compatiable with any backyard motiff. These versatile

    lighting options can be used to light potentially dangerous topography, such as rocks or pipes, they look great lined along a walkway or down a staircase and they effectively provide ambient light in any situation. All in all, solar lighting is a perfect solution to the pesky summer problem of wanting to stay outside into the night without expending any additional resources.

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