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How Does the Coronavirus Affect VR?

By Brandon Kerman, March 6th, 2020

The mysterious coronavirus outbreak originating from the Chinese city, Wuhan, has been spreading into neighboring Asian countries - and even as far as Australia, the US, and Europe. The coronavirus, now termed as Covid-19, has been the subject of recent mass coverage.

The pandemic has catalyzed the development of novel coronavirus vaccines across the biotech industry, both by pharmaceutical companies and research organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), US.

The first Covid-19 vaccine in China is expected to be ready for clinical trials by the end of April, according to Xu Nanping, China's vice-minister of science and technology. Inovio Pharmaceuticals plans to begin clinical trials on a coronavirus vaccine in April this year.

However, seeing as this is a novel virus, the near future is uncertain. The media has offered its opinion, so here are some general precautions and how they pertain to VR. Let's stay calm, listen to the experts, and be safe.

Clean Your VR Equipment

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases such as Covid-19. These precautions include:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds regularly

The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. We recommend applying this precaution to your VR equipment. Whether you are using your VR equipment moderately or frequently, you should properly clean and maintain it in order to avoid an accumulation of bacteria that leads to the spread of diseases. 

Here are some tips to keep your equipment sanitary, maintained, and functioning.

  1. Wipe the lens and foam of each headset using a microfiber cloth, the same kind you would use to clean glasses or a computer screen (the last thing you want to do is scratch the lenses). Dab the cloth into water or soapy water when necessary.
  2. Use non-alcoholic bacterial wipes between every 5-10 uses. The residue from alcoholic wipes can be a bit harsh on people's skin, as well as the equipment itself.
  3. Keep your VR headset somewhere where it won't collect dust. Use a can of compressed air to blow out any excess dust and debris buildup.
  4. Optional: Use disposable VR mask covers in between each use. They can be difficult and troublesome to deal with at times, but they will save some of the hassle in the long run.
  5. Optional: A nice little tool used to clean DSLR cameras and lenses is the Lenspen. At one end there's a small soft, cleaning tip. At the other is a retractable brush. Great for excess specs of dust.

You'll want to keep a supply of these items fulfilled, as most of these items are consumables that will need to be replenished periodically.

Stay Up-to-Date

Because of its rapidly changing situation, the Coronavirus outbreak is something to keep up-to-date on in order to best protect yourself and others. However, there are many sources and not all of them are the most reliable, so it is important to be able to stay calm and think critically.

The Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University is tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time on their interactive dashboard with data available for download. They are also modeling the spread of the virus. Preliminary study results are discussed on their blog.

Check out the interactive map here.

Traveling Precautions

The CDC has cautioned international travelers to be aware they may face unpredictable circumstances, travel restrictions, challenges, returning home or accessing healthcare while abroad.

Their Travel Health Notices page informs travelers and clinicians about current health issues that impact travelers' health, like disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, and natural disasters, in specific international destinations. With this tool, you are able to search by country name or disease.

U.S citizens who must travel are encouraged to register through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and receive important information from the embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. Registration allows you to be easily located by embassy personnel in the event of an emergency.

Canceled VR/AR/Tech Events

If you were planning to go to a VR/AR/Tech event or conference in the near future, unfortunately, you may need to reconsider your plans. Here is a list of canceled events as of March 6th, 2020, as supplied by isitcanceledyet.com:

For the events that are not canceled, you may just want to check out their live-streams instead (for precautionary reasons). 

VR Supply Shortages

Hardware supply chains have been under pressure from Covid-19 for weeks. Factories in China have been slow to reopen after the Lunar New Year break, and those that did are putting returning workers through quarantine and operating at a vastly reduced capacity. Many Chinese cities are also imposing tight restrictions on travel which has complicated logistics.

Some products from Apple, Facebook and HP are in short supply in a possible sign of the coronavirus outbreak's effect on the global manufacturing system.

A review of Facebook's online store showed the Oculus Quest virtual reality headset with 128 gigabytes of storage is "unavailable" to purchase, while the Oculus Rift S is also sold out online.

Facebook said its Oculus Quest headset has been selling out in some regions due to high demand. However, the social-media giant is also preparing for virus-related disruptions. The Rift S became unavailable in the past few days, according to website's records.

"Like other companies, we're expecting some additional impact to our hardware production due to the Coronavirus," Facebook said in a statement. "We're taking precautions to ensure the safety of our employees, manufacturing partners and customers, and are monitoring the situation closely."

Be Careful

Time will only tell whether or not the Coronavirus is something to practice further precaution on but in the meantime, just be careful. Practice the hygiene practices listed above, such as avoiding close contact with people who are sick, washing your hands regularly, and staying home when you are sick.

Got any other Coronavirus information you want to share? Think we missed anything? Comment below or tweet us @basereality.co !



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