To adult audiences in 1977, "Star Wars" was the most realistic special effects they had ever witnessed while to younger people of today, the defects are obvious. Some of that is due to better technology, a cheap TV has better clarity and resolution that an IMAX screen a generation ago, but some of it is that they are trained to see better.

Yet as with .MP3s and sound fidelity, tablets and phones may be setting progress back in vision. We have been trained to enjoy lower quality sound and a new study says that pixels and rectangles are affecting how we see oblique angles of things like tree branches, sloping hillsides and the lilt of flowers. Digital content makes us highlight horizontal and vertical lines and creates an 'oblique effect.'

Even in a real world “carpentered” environment, one manufactured by human hands and containing buildings, road signs, and street lamps, many oblique angles are eliminated. Digital media, also made by human hands, likewise exhibit the oblique effect. In the article, the researchers used Fourier analysis to investigate the visual orientation of a wide range of digital scenes, from cartoons and videogames to websites, and compared the results with real-life scenes from natural, suburban and urban environments.

Minecraft early code.

Videogames which try to imitate the real world use oblique angles

They found that videogames meant to imitate the natural world actually do okay, preserving some oblique angles, just not to the extent seen in nature. Yet more pixelated videogames and social media sites are instead boxes and exhibit the oblique effect to an extreme not seen in real-world environments.

In a previous study, students played Minecraft for four hours; afterward, their sensitivity to vertical and horizontal lines increased but the oblique effect faded when they re-engaged with the natural world. A paper from the 1970s indicated that Indigenous people who were raised in natural environments were more sensitive to oblique angles.

There are no implications to that other than to other aspects of vision. Some people have a special ocularity which makes them able to see a baseball pitch slower. In a person who also has good reflexes, it results in a Stan Musial or Albert Pujols. Yet a lack of such ocularity does not diminish day-to-day life for everyone else.

Sp perceptual changes aren’t reflective of eyesight or necessarily negative because even after heavy digital use, people are still able to perceive oblique angles; they just didn’t pay as much attention to them as horizontal and vertical lines.

It is only in a possible future where people overuse digital content that they may lose some aspects of basic visual perception, and if epigenetics is more than Lamarckian evolution, it could be shaping some humans forever.