July 12, 2021

Musing #5: Aiming for the Middle


In the heat of our current pandemic scramble, a clear continuum exists: 

the “covidiot to covidian” spectrum.  

At one extreme lies the covidiot. The covidiot is not afraid of contracting Covid-19 for any number of reasons. For example, s/he sees himself/herself as invincible or as the victim of a government ruse. Whatever the reason, life must go on. The covidian, to the contrary, sees the possibility of contamination around every corner and is driven by miserable fear. You can identify a covidiot because she will enter a busy store without a mask; you can distinguish a covidian because he will be driving a car all alone, wearing a mask. I find myself somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, guided by science, data, and keen self-awareness. 

So here’s the rub: technical hygiene standards for virtual reality in schools are really aimed at the large crowd in the middle. Most covidiots will ignore, fake or delay adhering to hygiene standards unless forced to do so; covidians will see such standards as “not enough” and are likely to “just stay home”.  Now let’s apply this spectrum in real life. Take for example the AMC theater hygiene standards, which are fairly comprehensive, in my way of thinking. I have seen covidiots take their masks off after the theater goes dark, even though our state requires masking indoors. Conversely, I have numerous covidian acquaintances who would never go to a theater, no matter what safety standards are in place.

 So, safety standards really benefit the sensible middle, not the extremes. They are aimed at the thinker, the analyzer, the realist, and the rationalist. In the main, businesses are hoping that catering to the middle can carry them through our unfortunate economic hard times.

July 5, 2021

Musing #4: What’s missing?


    Isn’t there more to safety than merely disinfecting any shared equipment? In the Hologate VR standards for location-based entertainment (see my previous post in this series), what’s missing is physical distancing of customers, masking, temperature taking, reduced facility capacity, staff testing and hand washing, air and HEPA filters, and ‘enhanced’ facility disinfecting, and other ‘enhanced’ disinfecting procedures. Does education offer their own industry-preferred hygiene standards for VR equipment use? Can you think of anything that is missing from the procedures/practices followed in your school or university? What's missing?

June 28, 2021

Musing #3: The AOA Weighs In


Hygiene standards for VR headgear (and previously, 3D glasses) in schools have been top of mind for the doctors and scientists of the American Optometric Association (AOA), long before the current Covid crisis ever erupted. Although there have been no reported instances of problems and no published studies, the American Optometric Association informs us that the eye can be an important route of microbial exposure. Their recommendations, which can be viewed as hygiene standards, are summarized here: 

Teachers and children should be instructed to ask about the cleanliness of headgear; hand washing before use would be helpful; cleaning the VR headgear with cold disinfecting systems between uses or employ existing UV cabinets (found in many science classrooms) will provide additional disinfecting and anti-microbial protection between uses.”

June 21, 2021

Musing #2: AMC Technical Hygiene Standards

  In this post, we continue some blunt musings about Covid-aware hygiene standards, especially national and industry-specific standards. Come along with us for an untamed ride of nuance and perspective through the wilderness of covidian concern.


AMC standards. The most comprehensive set of hygiene standards in the theater industry are those of the AMC theater chain. Here is a list of their official covid-era hygiene steps, which is impressive to say the least:

  • social distancing
  • masks required
  • reduced auditorium capacities
  • cashless transactions
  • hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes
  • simplified menus Refills and condiments by request only
  • daily associate health screenings
  • frequent hand washing encouraged
  • self-check reminders (don’t come if sick)
  • enhanced cleaning procedures, advised by Clorox
  • electrostatic disinfectant sprayers
  • upgraded NMERV 13 Air filters
  • HEPA filter vacuums

Apparently, AMC is serious about getting their customers back. I have been seem numerous movies, in theater, since the pandemic started, and these improvements are clearly visible to the customer.

June 14, 2021

Musing #1: National vs Local

  In the next four posts, we provide some blunt musings about Covid-aware hygiene standards, especially national and industry-specific standards. Come along with us for an untamed ride of nuance and perspective through the wilderness of covidian concern.


Musing #1: Industry-specific versus national standards. An educator in a previous post bemoaned the lack of national standards for cleaning shared equipment in schools. I suspect he felt that local educational practices were either insufficient, thinly followed, or poorly communicated. Thus he pined for more and stricter guidance from on high. 

I wonder if national or even state standards are in fact superior to industry-specific and location-contextualized standards? I am reminded by the complete lockdowns of hair salons in California, while here in Colorado, salons go on about their business in complete safety, following sensible safety standards—with no resultant infections. Can bureaucrats, sitting at a distance, really make the kinds of safety decisions that best fit a local educational community? I think not. 

The CDC recently posted the study results of a potential Covid spread in a Springfield, Missouri hair salon. Two stylists, who subsequently serviced more than 139 patrons, were initially infected. After testing these paying customers, the CDC found “all test results were negative”. Their conclusion? “Adherence to the community’s and company’s face-covering policy likely mitigated spread of SARS-CoV-2”. See the study summary for yourself. The bottom line is that I am suspicious of state or national standards over the local or industry-specific standards.  Looking at the California example, it is all-too-easy it is to overthink the situation and punitively disconnect safety standards from actual science.

June 7, 2021

Systematizing VR Hygiene

 Over the last two posts we spoke about the Hologate standards for cleaning shared VR environments. Yet the Hologate standards also implore us to systematize and be more intentional about our hygiene efforts with VR systems in education. The standards emphasize the need to ensure that “staff understands that constantly cleaning and disinfecting is now one of their top priorities”. 

In reviewing their standards, I strongly support their admonition to “slow down and adjust the throughput expectations for your team and customers to make accommodations for these added cleaning procedures”. 
Turnaround time on educational facilities or shared equipment in K12 or higher ed settings will need to be adjusted upwards. Similarly, their suggestion to “take photos and video of your team in action and post on your social media channels to let everyone know what you are doing” is sound advice. It instills confidence in an environment that has become all-too-scary on its own. Such a smart public-facing posture is vital, since educational environments tend to be more afraid of Covid-19 than commercial environments are.

May 31, 2021

The Hologate Standards

Last week we spoke about the Hologate standards for cleaning shared VR environments. Of particular interest is in these standards is Hologate’s concern over the opacity of any organization’s disinfecting efforts. Hologate strongly calls for highly visible action in this regard. They explain: “Post coronavirus, it is imperative to instill the confidence that everything is being done for your customer’s health and safety”. They add, “perception is everything and confidence can be gained through actions that are visible. They remind us to have staff “be diligent and highly visible by customers when disinfecting between uses” and to position “customer anti-bacterial dispenser and/or disinfectant wipe stations throughout a facility so that they are visible and conveniently accessed”.

May 24, 2021

Cleaning Things Up III


In “Cleaning Things Up II I mentioned one educator pleaded for guidance, asking:

“Don’t we have any national disinfecting standards to follow?”

Standards that can guide educators and others in this timely hygiene challenge do indeed exist. Take for example the recent Hologate hygiene and safety standards for virtual reality available for download here.  These standards are designed to “bring a uniform process to the location-based entertainment industry”, but are clearly applicable to other shared equipment environments or educational facilities. Although one must heed any local and national laws/regulations as well as the published guidance of government health agencies, the Hologate standards “are based on [our] years of experience operating systems and attractions”, they elaborate.

Some important perspectives are offered in the above standards document. Hologate reminds us about our changing times by suggesting “post coronavirus, we must accept the reality that we will be unable to operate as we have before. Cleanliness and disinfection will have to become paramount to customer’s confidence in enjoying our attractions and location-based entertainment”. These standards also remind us that hygiene must be maintained by professionals, and not merely “left to the customer” to address on their own.

Although location-based entertainment has suffered greatly during the recent economic and viral downturn, there is much to be learned for application in other environments, such as the education sector. The Hologate standards document reminds us that “virtual reality headsets and accessories [and, I would add historically, 3D glasses] have always been the target and topic of hygiene conversations, so it’s more important than ever to make sure that you have proper cleaning”.

In short, the VR hygiene methods recommended by Hologate are outlined below, and apply to headsets, controllers, vests, and fasteners alike:

  • Check, Clean, Dry (see the standards for a detailed breakdown)
  • Use sanitizing wipes
  • Employ Disposable VR Mask covers
  • Consider UVC light cleaning as an added defense

May 17, 2021

Cleaning Things Up II

Many of us are now hyperaware (almost to the point of bacillophobia) of cleaning often-used equipment surfaces in the education sector. One educator summarizes the covid-cleaning predicament in schools and universities in this way:

The problem with the virus is that it is invisible and so people tend to over-sanitize, taking up the mindset that the surfaces are [always] infected”.

In order to understand the depths of concern about this hygiene issue at the grassroots level in schools, let’s use some examples from a recent educational discussion forum recently playing out in Ireland.

Here are some of the key questions emerging, paraphrased here, but expressed by actual teachers:

-       Is it enough for children to wash hands or disinfect hands before and after using the laptop or iPad? 

-        Is it okay to use sprays on digital equipment?

-        How can we make this process less cumbersome?

-        Must we turn devices off when cleaning them?

-        How can we get a lab of devices ready for the next class?

-        Are protective keyboard covers worth the investment?

-        What vendors are you using for cleaning materials?

-        Don’t we have any national disinfecting standards to follow?

You can tell by the last question that it’s a jungle out there, with classroom teachers/professors largely left on their own to solve this in any way they can. 

May 10, 2021

Keeping Things Clean


In my last post, I asked “How can schools and universities address the acute hygiene problem” presented by shared school resources like VR headgear? I remembered a posting on the nearly 12,000 strong VR/AR Media Group on LinkedIn, to which I paid little attention at first, but which now grew afresh in my mind. Apparently, Uvisan (a UK company) rolled out a noteworthy UVC cabinet touting the highest photobiological safety ratings. I interviewed Anthony Graham, Distribution Manager for Uvisan, who emphasized: “All of our equipment has RoHS and CE certification and UV efficacy has been subjected to extensive laboratory testing to guarantee maximum effectiveness.”

The history on this product was fascinating to me. Immotion Group, a UK-based out-of-home VR company, had apparently developed a "Pre-covid" UVC cabinet for MGM, owners of Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas as part of a 36 seat motion platform VR Theatre in their their Shark Reef aquarium facility.  The ‘disinfecting’ cabinet technology enabled Mandalay to sanitize and simultaneously charge the headsets between showings of Immotion’s undersea VR short films. Then, as the pandemic spread, Graham recounted “we decided to put the research and effort that went into our cabinets to good use and create Uvisan as a stand-alone solution”. As the Covid crisis expanded, Mr. Graham rationalized that “the short disinfecting cycle, charging and security capabilities made it a perfect fit for many organizations”. Graham underlined that their UV anti-bacterial cleaning cabinets will support much more than VR headsets: tablets, tools, AV equipment, and phone headsets are also now supported.  [I would expect that this could also apply, in an educational context, to headphones, earphones, science probes/apparatus, utensils, and other instructional instruments used by waves of students.]

As far as the VR origins of this product,  Graham noted that “the cabinets were originally designed for VR Headsets, and we have a range of sizes that can house, sanitize and charge 12, 20 and up to 30 headsets, using our specifically placed 254nm low pressure medical-grade UV lamps to give maximum surface coverage.” But he added that the Uvisan cabinets are alternatively able to support up to 100 phones and 50 tablets. I asked Mr. Graham about any educational customers that were using this tool, and he responded “We have Chichester University and London College of the Arts using our cabinets in an educational setting and enquiries from others coming in daily.” He also mention the installations thye had in place with the Academcy of Applied Sciences in Germany. Graham also offered this case study on the Chichester implementation.

Some other customers who have found this solution particularly valuable include the VR sport business HADO (who told Graham that “they could not have run a championship event unless they had the cabinet to rapidly sanitize the headsets”) and the British Film Institute, who recently used their cabinets at a VR event which was part of this year's London Film Festival.  Graham concludes: “We have a very versatile, safe and effective product and we are now seeing demand coming through from healthcare and industrial partners.”

Can educational institutions afford this solution? It's an attention getting offering....

May 3, 2021

Grungy VR: Story

Having borrowed the gear nearly a week beforehand, I finally found some disposable time to sit down and give my son’s Oculus Quest VR a robust test drive. I was so looking forward to “taking her for a spin”. With great anticipation I held the headgear in my hands, studying how to best don the peculiar looking cap, when suddenly I froze with apprehension. Looking at the soft surface designed to make a tight fit over my eyes and forehead, I noticed it was particularly dirty, questionably so, and thought to myself “Do I want to clean this darn thing before I put it on?” Given the angst of possibly courting any unwanted and unexpected covidian germs, I slowed down to think it all through, especially given the ugly and scummy surface that lurked distastefully in front of me.

It was then no surprise that this unseemly encounter shifted my thinking towards the thousands of schools/universities that use similar VR or AR headgear, and how the threat of covid-related sanitary issues has already put the kibosh on the use of this technology in classrooms. I wondered “How can schools and universities address this acute hygiene problem?”

Now, back to the borrowed and grungy headgear, which I described in the first paragraph. It’s all in the family, I thought, so I put on the soiled HMD on and went ahead with my virtual journey. I am certain I would not do that in an educational institution, however, because no one has any idea where all those little foreheads have been. Fortunately, there are some commercial-grade solutions now available to educational institutions to specifically address these hygiene concerns. We'll look at those solutions over the next few weeks.