The general consensus is that by and large the troubles plaguing virtual reality in the past are behind us. Time will tell if virtual reality finally achieves the place in the home so many, including us, believe it deserves, but there is yet one hurdle that doesn’t get a lot of attention.
Hygiene for Virtual Reality Headsets
So you have everything ready to go for an extended VR demo session. You have two people on one virtual reality demo station. One person fixing up the computer, launching the demos and talking to people and one person managing the cable jungle and cleaning the headset in between uses. Great!
We had a look at some studies related to headset and office hygiene to give you an idea why cleaning your VR HMD in between uses makes sense.
Dr Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona conducted a study analyzed 7,000 samples from offices around the USA. The study found that the highest form of germ contamination areas were telephones, desktops and keyboards. Surprisingly, toilet seats consistently had the lowest bacteria levels of the 12 surfaces tested. Microbiological populations found include potentially dangerous and contagious organisms like E.coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Streptococcus and Salmonella. The same bacteria can be found on telephones, and ear cushions.
The study got commissioned by a major clean wipes compay but you get the idea. There are some nasties out there.
Gupta, Wantland and Klien (1996) suggest that much of the peripheral equipment used in VR are potential fomites. A fomite is a harmless object that is able to harbour pathogenic organisms and therefore, may serve as an agent for the transmission of infections. They go on to suggest that airborne pathogens and skin flora thrive in environments similar to those of HMDs and hand controller devices.
So what kind of infectious disease can be spread by sharing VR headsets?
The most common infectious diseases and are usually transmitted by close contact with the saliva or nasal secretions from an infected individual are influenza, strep throat, pink eye, and meningitis. Because of the enclosed nature of HMD’s they can become quite warm causing the user to sweat and this can be exacerbated if the user is forced to move around while playing.
Here are some suggestions for keeping your headset clean and in good shape even when showing it to hundreds of people:
- Wipe the lens and foam using a microfiber cloth, the same kind you would use to clean glasses or a computer screen. Dab the cloth into water or soapy water, when necessary. Even better get one of our waterproof VR Cover that are easier to clean.
- We recommend you wipe our waterproof VR Cover with non alcoholic anti bacterial wipes after every user and use alocholic wipes just every 10 – 15 users. The residue from alcoholic wipes can be a bit harsh on some people’s skin.
- Use watch glass protectors or some other form of plastic to cover the lenses. This can help to prevent scratches.
- Keep your VR headset somewhere where it won’t collect dust, use a can of compressed air to blow it out of any nooks and crannies.
It is important for the life of your HMD that you take care of it, store it properly and keep it clean. But beyond just ensuring you get the most use possible out of your purchase before having to replace it, it will also ensure that you and your users remain healthy and free of unpleasant illnesses.