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UV-C in Virtual Reality - VR-Here: A Uvisan Case Study

David Cartwright

VR Arcades are a relatively new emergence into our shopping centres and high streets. Heading out to the shops now doesn’t just mean bargain hunting in fashion retailers, you can now find yourself fighting off zombies in a post apocalyptic wasteland, exploring unknown galaxies with your almighty lightsaber, or for the less adrenaline centred, relaxing on your own private beach all before a McDonalds and a wander around H&M. The surge in development in VR technology has made it possible for VR arcades to deliver fully immersive Virtual Reality experiences that we had previously only ever dreamed of in more accessible locations than we ever thought possible. Then Covid. . . .

It may be stating the obvious, but Covid has brought about an existential threat to location based VR experiences. Hardly surprising when the whole concept relies on placing a device on your head, and then immediately handing over to the next eager participant. The warm and moist areas created on our heads make prime breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria and the proximity to our nose, mouth and eyes make transmission between users likely. VR Arcades were of course forced to close and Rush VR was no exception. The challenge was then how to open safely and adhere to government guidelines. 

The Problem

The real problem here actually lies with cost. First and foremost, the headsets aren’t cheap (around £900 per unit) and so any thoughts of simply increasing the number of available headsets to allow more turnaround time is a non starter. There just isn’t the money so that is out of the window. 

So what about wipes, are they something that could be used. Actually no, it’s just not possible with wipes to be sure that you are killing enough of the virus (you can read more about this here) and even if you could, it actually damages the headsets. There are lenses on these headsets and don’t forget and they are not waterproof. As soon as liquid finds its way inside you are talking serious damage. The cheap alternative is now looking very very expensive. 

There are some UVC cleaning products out there, would they work? The main contender is Clean Box, it's a great product and does a fantastic job, however, it’s not designed for bulk disinfection. In order for location based VR to operate in a way that is commercially viable, it is paramount to have a quick turnaround, particularly for groups and downtime is incredibly costly. Having periods of downtime for 30 minutes or more, simply makes the business model unviable, the only solution would be to buy a Clean Box for each headset. In case you were wondering, for 8 headsets, this would cost over £14,000. That one is out of the question. 

So what can be done, is it possible?

Uvisan

As it turns out Immotion had put their own experiences to good use to create a solution to this problem prior to Covid. As we discussed earlier in this article, VR Headsets are places that can attract growth of all sorts of bacteria and viruses and so was actually an issue before any of us knew what a Coronavirus was. Imagine a tourist heavy location such as Las Vegas and all sorts of people descending on one place from every corner of the globe. Would you be comfortable placing a communal headset on your head towards the end of a long very hot day in the middle of the Nevada desert? In short, the UV cabinet was developed and in a reaction to the Coronavirus, the Uvisan brand was born as a standalone UVC disinfection brand.

As the cabinet had been developed specifically for VR Headsets, this was obviously a massive advantage for VR-Here, tackling the exact problem that they faced. The cabinets were ordered and put to use immediately with incredible results and here is a brief summary:

  • Covid secure - The first and most important aspect is the ability to be Covid Secure. There are a number of cost saving benefits, procedural improvements and other optimisations to follow but above all else, stopping the spread of the virus and providing a safe environment was paramount and the primary objective. Introducing Uvisans UVC cabinets was an integral part of this. 
  • Turnaround time - Disinfecting 50 headsets takes only 5 minutes, reducing downtime to a minimum. A prerequisite in ensuring the business remains financially viable. 
  • Portability - One of the major benefits of the Uvisan cabinets are that they are portable. They can be wheeled around the arcade to wherever they are needed next, perfect for large areas and tethered devices. 
  • Battery operated - Similar to the above, bit no need to plug in when the cabinet is moved to its new location. The cabinet can be wheeled around, headsets loaded and disinfected quickly and easily, even charged without having to constantly find a power outlet.
  • Access panel - The majority of the headsets are tethered to equipment and security bolts. Uvisans design allows for headsets to be loaded into the cabinet whilst remaining tethered all in a way that is completely safe and still allows for disinfection. This adds to convenience and ease of use even further. 
  • Hassle free integration - The cabinets could be immediately put to use with very little training, the operational aspect is self explanatory allowing for an immediate change in operational procedure. 
  • Charging - VR headsets are battery operated and need to be charged regularly. They could now be placed in a secure cabinet that would both charge and disinfect simultaneously without any need to consider being disconnected from any tethers. 

Summary

Above all else, VR-Here is now open and operational (when government restrictions allow). There was an enormous obstacle to overcome and Uvsian allowed Les and the team at VR-Here to do so at a fraction of the cost that was originally thought of by using other alternatives. What’s more, if we think back to how the cabinets came to be created, Uvisan is not just a temporary product to help during Covid, it is something that will now become a permanent fixture even after the pandemic is over.

"An amazing product with outstanding support!"

"I can give my customers peace of mind when they receive safe and clean devices. It gives them the reassurance they need and shows how much we care as a business about the safety of our staff and customers."

Les Grzyl - Director VR-Here

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