Over the past few months, our Educators in VR Discord and Twitter, and Facebook members have discussed and debated how to protect ourselves, fellow teachers, and students from potential contagion with VR headsets.
We’ve debated about cleaning products and the risk of damage on the plastic as well as the lenses, and guessed at what may or may not work. Some teachers haul headsets home and wash them by hand, stripping off the face pads, and even throwing them in the wash machine.
Evelien Ydo has the better solutions.
In her research paper with Serious VR on VR Hygiene and Safety: Everything You Need to Know, she’s broken down the well-researched facts based on expert interviews and scientific data on how to clean VR headsets (HMDs) with detergents and hand sanitizers and using cleanable and disposable face pads, UV light treatments, and nanotechnology.
Hygiene and safety are always important to consider when using VR-headsets and controllers on multiple people. Areas that pose a high safety risk include the VR location-based entertainment industry, showcasing events, VR labs, education that uses VR, larger gatherings in general where headsets are swapped between people, and headsets that are used on a daily basis by multiple people (e.g. when training with headsets). During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that current procedures would not be sufficient anymore. Therefore, updated information about best practices on how to safely use VR-headsets is needed. SeriousVR finds it important to share our knowledge, combined with expertise provided by the VR/AR/XR community, so that we can collectively tackle this problem. This document aims to summarize the most up-to-date knowledge on how to use headsets safely and how to combine this knowledge into tangible procedures…
The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus is able to survive up to 72 hours on plastic (Suman et al., 2020). You could quarantine your headsets and controllers for that amount of time or use detergents to decontaminate. Different detergents have different effects on the survival of COVID-19 (e.g. Kampf, Todt, Pfaender & Steinmann, 2020). Keep in mind that certain detergents will probably leave some residue on the face, for example, detergents based upon chloride, which can irritate the skin or the eyes. Next to that, always follow the instructions of the specific detergent.
Her findings were surprising. One might think that a higher concentration of alcohol in ethanol-based detergents and cleaners would be more effective than less, but results indicate it becomes less potent and may actually do more harm than good on the virtual reality devices.
Don’t forget about cleaning hand controllers as well. Like keyboards and mice, these are prime areas for risk of contagion. Hand controllers need to be cleaned with the same solutions as used for cleaning the plastic on the headsets.
Evelien adds excellent information with protocols on how to educate staff, clients, and students about proper hygiene methods, diving up the protocol instructions for users and staff. Quality graphic versions of the protocols are available through Evelien as described in the article.
Evelien will be presenting a workshop on this subject for Educators in VR in AltspaceVR soon. Watch here, on Discord, and our social media for an announcement.
“BR Hygiene and Safety: Everything You Need to Know” is a must-read and share article for your school, class, and businesses to ensure you are taking the right steps to protect and reassure everyone.
Evelien Ydo is a Psychologist and Educational Expert at Serious VR, Coordinator of Learning & Development at Pre-U in the Netherlands, Master student at EST, and leader of the Educators in VR VR Research team project. The VR Research Team meets in AltspaceVR bi-weekly with special guest speakers, workshops, and open discussions. She is also co-creator of the VR Research Help Wanted Campaign that continues to spread the word for researchers in immersive technologies to find interview subjects and subjects to complete surveys to assist with their research, often helping them continue with their degree programs that came to a halt this spring with self-isolation and COVID-19. To join the discussions with VR researchers, join the Educators in VR Discord and check out the VR Research discussion channel. If you are a VR/AR/XR researcher and need help promoting your research to encourage participation and data collection, post it in our Research Help Wanted channel.