A Message from Elizabeth Hyman, XRA CEO
The COVID-19 pandemic is drawing unprecedented attention to virtual reality and related immersive technologies, such as augmented and mixed reality, that fall under the “x-reality” or “XR” umbrella. As social distancing mandates heighten reliance on telecommunications, The Telegraph has declared that “coronavirus is offering virtual reality a second life” and Forbes has questioned whether virtual reality is “the solution to the impact coronavirus is having on the events industry.”
The XR industry recognizes that this is a moment in which our nascent sector must demonstrate leadership and do everything it can to support public health responses — and I am heartened to see our companies doing just that.
Indeed, every day brings new stories of people discovering virtual reality devices and applications — not just for business continuity and physical connectedness at a time of social distancing, but also for innovative applications to research, tele-health, and e-learning.
Researchers around the world are using virtual reality to study the coronavirus at a molecular level. Nanome, a VIVEX accelerator company, is helping scientists understand and design molecular structures related to SARS-CoV-2. Professor Stefan Siemann at Laurentian University is using Nanome’s platform to immerse himself in the protein world — visualizing the coronavirus in three dimensions and determining how best to block the protein that causes it to replicate.
As researchers continue searching for a viable coronavirus treatment protocol, medical centers are becoming increasingly capacity-strained. To distribute resources on a global scale, healthcare professionals are turning to XR technology for telehealth services.
For example, XR Health, an American provider of XR therapy and telehealth programs, is setting up virtual reality telehealth services to support an Israeli medical center treating coronavirus patients. This program will provide VR headsets pre-programmed with XR Health’s apps and allow the hospital to treat incoming patients and monitor their at-home progress.
The world is also discovering the potential of XR to educate and generate empathy. Media outlets are turning to augmented reality to help the public visualize the effects of isolation on the population of infected individuals. USA Today published a full interactive story — depicted in augmented reality — to help readers understand the value of social distancing to “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 outbreaks.
These are still early days for XR technology — and, unfortunately for much of the world, still early days for this pandemic. As an industry, we are committed to seeking out additional opportunities to help with what matters most — keeping people safe and healthy — by aiding companies in equipping their employees with videoconferencing technology, assisting in the dissemination of accurate and moving public health information, supporting advanced research efforts, enabling virtual learning, facilitating telehealth services, and supporting other applications yet to be discovered. We encourage members of our industry to put any available resources toward these efforts. If you or your company are finding ways to apply XR technology to support COVID-19 relief, please let us know.
CARES Act Highlights
On March 27, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a $2 trillion stimulus package responding to the public health and economic crises associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. To support the small businesses and technology companies in the XR ecosystem that are facing unprecedented economic strain, below are links to highlighted sections of the CARES Act with potential relevance to the XR community. While it will take time for government agencies to promulgate regulations to implement this stimulus package (for example, the Small Business Administration is directed to do so within 15 days of enactment of the CARES Act), interested companies should be aware of the economic support for which they are eligible.
- CARES Act Support for Smaller Businesses (500 or Fewer Employees)
- CARES Act Support for Technology and Telecommunications
Hygienic Use Guidance
As an industry, we encourage users of XR technology to follow hygiene and safety best practices with each use of XR devices, such as VR headsets, AR/MR visors or glasses, or AR-enabled mobile devices. While we recognize that many individuals, companies, and educational institutions use XR for group training, education, entertainment, and many other applications, we advise against the shared use of XR devices until national and international public health authorities indicate reduced risk for contracting COVID-19 and ease or eliminate recommended containment measures.
Additionally, as a general reminder, here are hygiene best practices to bear in mind whenever using XR devices:
- Adhere to each manufacturer’s safety guidance for keeping products clean, as guidance for cleaning devices will vary by device type and manufacturer. Review the cleaning and warning guidance that accompanied the device or reach out to the manufacturer for more details.
- Wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer before handling an XR device.
- Consider using a disposable VR facial cover, available through major retailers.
- Prevent your VR headset from collecting dust. As needed, use a can of compressed air to remove dust from the device’s surface.
These recommendations are intended to provide general common-sense advice to the consumer. It is not a substitute for following government recommendations. For advice relating to specific contagious conditions such as COVID-19, please refer to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidance on cleaning and disinfecting considerations as well as guidance from the World Health Organization.
XR Industry at Work for COVID-19
As the global community races to support those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, XRA member companies are hard at work finding innovative applications of XR technology for research, telehealth, e-learning, and empathy. Learn more about these efforts by visiting:
- Medical students at Case Western Reserve are using Microsoft’s HoloLens to replace cadavers in anatomy classes
Member Company Resource Pages
For additional resources made available by XRA member companies, please visit: