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Facebook tries to save face by recalling itch-inducing Oculus Quest 2 VR headset foam

Reports of skin problems and a recall in Australia move social ad biz to action

Before Facebook can "bring the metaverse to life," it will first have to deal with customers dismantling their Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets for repairs because their faces have been irritated.

The web titan's Oculus subsidiary on Tuesday issued a voluntary recall notice in conjunction with the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to replace the removable foam facial interfaces in Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets.

"We are doing so in response to reports from a very small percentage of users who have experienced skin irritation where the foam portion of the facial interface rests on the skin," Oculus said in a statement on its website.

The recall covers about four million units, plus 172,600 in Canada. It applies to headset serial numbers that start with “1WMHH” and end with a number below “1264.”

"This voluntary recall does not apply to the headset itself. It only applies to the Quest 2 removable facial interface that comes with Quest 2 and is also sold separately, including as part of the Fit Pack," a Facebook spokesperson said in an email to The Register.

Everyone who already owns a Quest 2 or a Fit Pack can receive a free silicone cover that fits over the Quest 2 foam facial interface. You don't have to return your headset or your removable foam facial interface to receive a Quest 2 Silicone Cover."

Oculus has also suspended sales of all Quest 2 packages worldwide to coordinate with global regulators.

Thousands of customers irritated

According to the USCPSC, Facebook has received roughly 5,716 reports of skin irritation and about 45 reports of customers who required medical attention. According to the mega-corporation, those affected by the skin irritation amounts to about 0.01 per cent of people using Quest 2 kit.

"The foam facial interfaces can cause facial skin irritation and reactions including rashes, swelling, burning, itching, hives, and bumps," the USCPSC said in its notice.

People have been posting pictures of skin problems on social media that they attribute to Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets.

On June 6, 2021, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission issued a recall of Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets in that country, also due to skin irritation caused by the headset's foam interface.

According to Facebook's spokesperson, the facial interface is made principally of polyurethane foam. The headset is manufactured in China.

In an April 15 update to a December 20, 2020 post covering initial reports of skin irritation, Oculus said it didn't find any contamination or unexpected substances in its manufacturing process but acknowledged that chemicals might be to blame.

"We identified a few trace substances that are normally present in the manufacturing process which could contribute to skin discomfort, and while these were already at levels below the industry standard, out of an abundance of caution we changed our process to reduce them even further," Oculus said. "We’ve confirmed with expert dermatologists and toxicologists that these levels are considered extremely low."

In a separate post, Andrew Bosworth, head of Facebook Reality Labs, said the company took reports of skin irritation seriously as soon as it learned about them, and began investigating with the help of dermatologists and toxicologists in December last year. And skin reactions of this sort are common, he suggests.

"These experts have advised that skin irritation can occur in some segments of the population from many household items – even things like tomatoes or shampoo – and that the rates we’ve seen are in line with expectations," he said.

Facebook intends to resume selling Quest 2 headsets with a silicone cover starting August 24. ®

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