How to keep your virtual reality gear looking and working like new
Perhaps you’ve taken your family to Freak Penrith, got bitten by the virtual reality bug, and bought your teen or child their own standalone, smartphone, or tethered virtual reality (VR) headset.
If so, they’ve just joined the more than 171 million VR users around the globe using this technology to create a “sensory experience for the user, sometimes including sight, touch, hearing, smell or even taste”, says Statista.
While VR gear opens up a world of virtual experience, maintaining it is essential for good health and durability. Most warranties just last a year, but with good care, you can keep your VR headset working for much longer than that. Even with regular use, they can last three or more years.
What could possibly go wrong with my new VR gear?
Here are the common problems you’re likely to encounter with VR headsets, whether they’re tethered or wireless:
- The controllers get broken due to heavy use
- The tether cable breaks when it snags on something
- Lens damage due to direct sunlight
- The lens becomes scratched because glasses are worn inside the headset– prescription lens inserts will alleviate this problem or ensure your headset comes with a glasses spacer
- The backlight in the lens fails from overuse
- Headset damage due to the wearer sweating inside it, or
- The graphics card needs updating due to lag or pixelation.
These tips will help you maintain your VR headset. The manufacturer’s instructions recommend taking a 10-15-minute break every half hour. That helps reduce disorientation, dizziness, nausea, muscle twitching, eye soreness, and in extreme cases, seizures.
Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before donning the headset. Clean the headset using nitrile gloves between each use. Alcohol-free antibacterial wipes will do the job on all the hard surfaces, including:
- Top and bottom of the eyepiece
- Halo adjustment ring on the back, and
- The controller.
Then, with fresh alcohol-free wipes, clean the headset’s padded areas, including the headband and foam inserts.
Microfibre cloths are ideal for cleaning the lenses and reducing smudging. Start from the centre of the lens, gently wiping in a circular motion as you move outwards. Avoid using alcohol-based products on the lens, or you’ll damage can be done to them. Invest in watch glass protectors or other lens covers to protect them from scratches.
Once you’ve finished cleaning the headset, rewash your hands, then let the headset air dry for 10 minutes before using it – if it still looks damp, wait until it’s totally dry. And don’t put your headset in direct sunlight to dry or when not in use, or you’ll damage the lens. Popular headset manufacturer Oculus says sunlight hitting the headset lens for less than a minute indoors can permanently damage them. Outdoors is obviously worse.
To really boost your VR hygiene, check out this guide to cleaning your headset and keeping it COVID-19 transmission-free. It suggests using UV light and waterproof covers for the face pads. The virus can last up to 72 hours on plastic, as this research report shows, so it pays to take extra care.
And when you’re not using the headset or are travelling with it, keep it in a protective case. Dust is the enemy of the headset.
Use the wrist straps. Ideally, you’ll be able to designate a virtual boundary system to reduce the risk of colliding with furniture, walls and hurting yourself or your gear. Give yourself a wide berth. Opt to sit rather than stand when using VR. Also, avoid using the headset when you’ve been drinking alcohol.
If you’re sober and what you see through the headset is pixelated, try adjusting the device to fit your eye orientation and head size a bit more snugly.
Keeping your(s) cool
You can work up quite a sweat wearing the headset and moving about. Keep cool with a hands-free portable neck fan. You can get them on Amazon or eBay from AU$18.
When you’re not using the device, power it down and switch it off rather than put it to sleep. This will maximise the internal battery’s life.
If you’ve got a VR headset that uses a smartphone – mobile VR or VR viewer – you’ve got a few options to avoid overheating issues. Turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, close background apps, switch to airplane mode, ensure your phone is fully charged and adjust the screen’s brightness.
Need more graphics grunt?
For VR gaming, for example, your computer needs to run a very high frame rate, so it feels smoother and lessens the risk of motion sickness.
Each headset manufacturer recommends particular hardware settings – that is, graphics cards – as a baseline, so if you want to boost the VR experience, consider going a little higher. Here, at Little Computer People, we can advise you on upgrading the graphics card and source and install it for you and help you with any servicing or repairs for your headset.