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Computer Vision Syndrome, or Why We Would All be Better Off With an E-ink Monitor

dasung paperlink the digital readerThe NYTimes published an article last week which reminds us why an expensive toy like Dasung’s E-ink monitor is less an indulgence than a necessity.

The article delves into computer vision syndrome, a spectrum of physical symptoms caused by sitting and staring at your computer screen for unhealthy lengths of time.

Do you know how your mother told you not to sit so close to the screen? Well, she was right:

Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively, whether for work or play, have one or more symptoms of computer vision syndrome. The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain.

The report’s authors, Tope Raymond Akinbinu of Nigeria and Y. J. Mashalla of Botswana, cited four studies demonstrating that use of a computer for even three hours a day is likely to result in eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.

Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

I think that they’re overstating the seriousness of the problem. With most people, you can cure their symptoms simply by changing their work environment or or their work habits.

Adjusting the height of a monitor, repositioning a chair, or changing work routines, will help half or more of those with CVS. The fix is so simple that I almost hesitate to use the word syndrome, but then there are the people who  aren’t helped by such simple measures.

Some CVS sufferers aren’t just inconvenienced when they stare at a screen too long; they’re put on the sick list. They get pounding migraines in just a few short hours, and often have to ration their computer time.

"I had to take weeks off at my job because I couldn’t stand to watch any monitors, (even TV, projectors, any that emits light)," a reader told me last year. "I’ve been having headaches for years, and just reached my limit. I got back at my job recently, but the nightmare is still going on: every day is a struggle."

For the more extreme cases of CVS, the Paperlike monitor, with its 13″ E-ink screen, is not an optional expense any more than a screen reader app is for the visually impaired.

And that’s why I was so thrilled to see the Paperlike launch on Indiegogo last week.

I’ve covered the software features of the Paperlike before, so I won’t repeat myself here.

Dasung is raising funds for its next production run by pre-selling the Paperlike monitor. They’re asking $800 for a monitor that retails for $1300 (sometimes it helps to buy from the manufacturer).

The campaign is now up to $57 thousand, far exceeding its goal of $10,000, and it’s still growing. Unfortunately it’s only sold 71 units, which means this is going to stay a niche product rather than going mainstream.

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flo June 5, 2016 um 12:46 pm

Totally agree.

poiboy June 5, 2016 um 3:11 pm

i would soooooo much prefer an e-ink screen to work off.

fahirsch June 6, 2016 um 8:53 am

Many years ago I learned, the hard way, that people should not use bifocals or multifocals while looking at a monitor. It force a posture to keep the correct lens pointing at the screen = headache, etc. People should use eyeglasses for monitor-distance only.
Smartphones, tablets, p-books are ok with bifocals, etc. Everybody adjusts the correct distance automatically, something impossible to do with a monitor.

DavidW June 6, 2016 um 11:25 am

There are many ways to minimize or eliminate CVS that are not tried by some sufferers of the condition.

1. Proper viewing distance: can’t be two close nor too far. Usually the sweet spot is 2 feet, but it depends on the size of the monitor.
2. Orientation: should be angled slightly up and the eyes should NOT be center with the screen but 2/3 up from the bottom.
3. Placement: monitor should be perpendicular to the plane containing the window if any. Need to minimize reflections and prevent the monitor from competing with sunlight.
4. Proper lighting: better to work with subdued lighting from a lamp instead of overly bright overhead fluorescents. Best to place the lamp behind and to the side of the monitor.
5. Blue filter on monitor or computer glasses does help with eye strain.
6. The 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes take a break to look at something 20 feet away.
7. Use appropriate prescription glasses or contacts if needed to focus on the screen which is neither near sighted nor far sighted.

I think that for most people obeying these rules will eliminate the need for an eink monitor which I think will cause more problems than it will solve.

I found these out based upon research when I suffered from CVS when I switched to contacts. They worked for me.

DavidW June 6, 2016 um 11:28 am

Oh right one more thing: my optometrist has me take eye vitamins, it’s not associated with CVS at all but something different.

But here is the thing that I discovered: I became much, much, much less sensitive to bright light from monitors, overhead lighting etc. as a result. I used to have migraines triggered or made worse by the overhead lights and had to turn the backlight on my tv and monitor way down. Now none of those bother me at all.

It’s worth trying.

purple lady June 6, 2016 um 1:01 pm

What specific vitamins do you take? I have problems with brightness – it makes my vision go double.

DavidW August 8, 2016 um 12:24 am

I’m sorry that I never saw this! I take Occuvite.

Joachim June 6, 2016 um 4:03 pm

I really like the idea of a (secondary) e-ink display. I suppose this one is only for Windows?

Nate Hoffelder June 6, 2016 um 4:06 pm

Also OSX, but I don’t know of any Linux drivers.

Rasputin June 7, 2016 um 6:19 am

Shame none of the big e-readers (Onyx, for example) don’t support secondary-monitor functionality out-of-the-box. It seems to me they could double their market with a software change.

It Will Be a Cold Day in Hell before You Can Buy a 32" E-ink Monitor | The Digital Reader July 13, 2017 um 1:24 pm

[…] monitor would cost at least twice as much as a Paperlike, that could be worth it for those who have computer vision syndrome, the class of medical conditions which prevent users from looking at LCD […]

The Dasung Paperlike Pro Monitor Features Faster Response Times, Carta E-ink Screen (video) | The Digital Reader July 25, 2017 um 4:07 pm

[…] The current model cost $700 when sold through Indiegogo last summer, and it was simply the best solution for Computer Vision Syndrome. […]

How to Get the Most Out of Your Dasung Paperlike, or Other E-ink Monitors | The Digital Reader September 3, 2017 um 2:41 pm

[…] I resolved the issue by simply going back to using a regular monitor, but that simply isn't an option for those who get migraines from staring at LCD screens. […]

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