Using VR and AR Headsets in the time of COVID
In today’s workplace, clean equipment is more important than ever before. In fact, some states are requiring Business Reopening policies to include documented processes for cleaning shared equipment. This includes cleaning VR and AR headsets.
At a time when we are looking to overcome the limitations imposed by social distancing, Virtual and Augmented Reality headsets have become a valuable tool. These devices allow remote workers to assist onsite employees. They allow in-depth training and improved design collaboration. As a result of this added value, we are noting a large uptick in the adoption of headsets for enterprise. Due to the expense of cost, these devices are often shared by multiple employees. Workplaces must research the best options to clean devices for employee safety while supporting device longevity.
The following is what we have gleaned from talking to device manufacturers, cleaning providers and sanitation experts. We have listed these methods below for the benefit of the VR and AR community.
Keeping your VR or AR headset Clean – Available Approaches
Cleaning with soap
By far, this method is the most popular and least likely to affect the device when performed properly. To clean the headset properly:
- Make sure the device is turned off
- Use as little liquid as possible. Do NOT use a cloth so damp that moisture pools or runs into openings
- Best results come from using a clean, damp cloth that has been soaked in a water & soap solution and then wrung out, VERY well
- Make sure the cloth does not scratch the lenses; Do NOT use paper towels on lenses
- Wipe the whole device, playing extra attention to areas of skin contact
- Use a new clean, dry cloth to dry the device. Particular attention should be given to all lenses
Middle-level cleaning with Covers
This method is best suited for many AR/MR devices. Use special alcohol wipes (such as lens wipes) which allow for deeper cleaning and removing excess oil from the device. To be most effective:
- Wipe down the device with the alcohol wipe
- Allow the device to dry on its own – Do NOT wipe excess alcohol off
- When dry, use a dry cloth to buff out any spots as needed
A wide variety of Virtual Reality headsets come with removable covers.
Reusable and removable pads can be bought for Oculus headsets. These pads can be removed and changed between users. They come in a pack of two for about $20 and are available on Amazon.
Some headsets can accommodate silicone covers. The advantage of using silicone covers over fabric, is that they are easier to clean and stay cleaner for a longer time. They are slightly more expensive than fabric, but the effort required for maintenance is less.
For a completely disposable choice with no cleaning involved, use a disposable head cap under the headset. This will provide a thin barrier between the user’s head and the headset. The protection level is not great but might be sufficient for light usage. If the device is being shared, the user should also wear a proper mask.
Dedicated Cleaning Solutions, such as Clean VR
Several dedicated cleaning solutions are now available in the market. Clean VR is one of those solutions. Clean VR showcased its “Clean box” solution with the following promotional image of an Oculus headset undergoing an automated cleaning. Cleanbox is a premium and eco-friendly smart tech hygiene solution for AR, VR, MR & Communication headsets, eyewear, masks, and other mass use hardware. This is the same company that promoted its ability to clean N95 masks near the start of the pandemic.
*Independent lab testing was recently undertaken at a Biohazard Level 3 lab shows that Cleanbox UVC engineering kills Sars-Cov-2 (COVID-19), resulting in a 99.999%+ efficacy on plastics & hard surfaces in 60 seconds, and N95 masks in two minutes.
The solution uses ultraviolet light to perform the cleaning. As this device does not use heat or toxins for cleaning, there is no adverse effect to the headsets. There is also a benefit to the environment as well as increased safety for those using the Cleanbox.
No cleaning at All
This seems contradictory to the goals of good healthcare, but the choice remains to not actively clean a headset due to the possibility of causing damage to it. Instead viruses and bacteria can die passively by letting the headset sit in an isolated spot for an extended period. The drawback to this choice is that the length of time considered necessary for certain viruses to die, is still in discussion within medical circles.
Things NOT to Do
Do not use harsh abrasives or solvents such as alcohol, acetone, etc. These chemicals can damage many types of plastic and affect the glue holding fabrics together. Plastic parts can be permanently damaged with a frosted, ugly residue. Lenses in particular can be damaged.
Do not use household cleaners like Clorox wipes. It may be tempting since they kill most germs easily, but you do not want the wipes’ chemical irritants anywhere near your eyes, breathing pathway, skin, etc. Using Clorox wipes on hard plastics like the headset’s outer surface and controllers is fine, but keep them away from the facial interface, lenses, and nose guard.
There is no single solution that will be best for all companies. You will need to assess what solution best fits your environment and the way you work. For instance, there is no sense in exploring a soap and water solution if there no easy way to clean rags. A dedicated cleaning solution will not work if you do not have the budget to purchase the cleaning device.
If you would like to explore what option works best for you or discuss how to integrate VR and AR into your remote work environment, please contact us.