Image: Jon Jaehnig for MIXED
At a recent XR event, Cleanbox COO Lorenzo Vallone explained some of the problems with conventional cleaning.
Be honest: when was the last time you cleaned your VR headset? You clean your personal device as seldom as you wish. But if you use a headset at work or to demo an experience at an event, wouldn’t you like to know that it had been cleaned recently?
How Long Does it Take to Clean a Headset? What about Two?
According to Vallone, it takes at least ten minutes to properly disinfect a headset using conventional sanitary wipes. And it should take at least three wipes.
But remember not to use the lenses on the wipes themselves. Most guides also recommend using soap and water, but there are definitely places on your headset that you don’t want water to find.
For an individual using a personal headset, this isn’t too much of a burden – particularly if you don’t clean your headset after every use. But, there are at least two situations where this kind of set-up can be a pain-point.
Demos and Shows
I met Vallone at Meta Center Global Week. A lot of exhibitors were showcasing VR hardware and software, hopefully at least giving headsets a cursory pass with a wet wipe before passing them on.
“In a situation like this, you’ve got a lot of turnover and not a lot of time to disinfect,” said Vallone.
The good news is that the headsets (hopefully) don’t actually get too dirty during these brief demonstrations. Though, they still deserve a good cleaning.
Education or Industry
In educational settings or in the workplace, more headsets might be used at once for longer periods of time with more time in between sessions.
The good news is that there’s plenty of time to clean a dozen or two dozen headsets before the next shift or the next class. The bad news is that cleaning a dozen or two dozen headsets by hand takes a long time.
Vallone’s estimate that a headset takes ten minutes to clean includes the headset air drying (a step recommended by most manufacturers), so cleaning thirty headsets doesn’t necessarily take 300 minutes. But, it still might take an hour or more for a single person to do.
And a lot of wipes. Vallone is particularly passionate about the endless wipes ending up in landfills for the sake of clean VR hardware.
Scaling Headset Sanitation
Vallone has a method for calculating the time and money (and the number of wipes) that operations of different sizes spend maintaining headset hygiene. The cost can be surprisingly high.
“We believe that this is foundational for the scaling of an XR industry,” said Vallone. He believes Cleanbox has the answer.
Cleanbox incorporates UV-C LED light into VR headset storage cases and cabinets. Similar technology has been used for years to disinfect home medical equipment. But, Cleanbox is the only company that makes the devices specifically for VR headsets.
A hobbyist could make a rudimentary version with commercially available supplies, but Cleanbox devices are specifically designed to disinfect all parts of the headset simultaneously in about one minute. Their units can accommodate one, two, or 24 headsets.
A less-specialized version fits a wider variety of devices, and Cleanbox sees applications in the medical industry as well as in the hospitality industry. Any object that has to move from one room to another or from one set of hands to another is a candidate.
I Don’t Know if I’ve Ever Cleaned My Headsets
You might not need a Cleanbox for your personal use, but once you start thinking about headset sanitation beyond glancing over that section in your device manual, it’s hard not to think about it. So show your headsets some love. The next person to wear it will thank you.