On Wednesday, Facebook announced that they hired a new head for their virtual reality department. He is the former Google and Xiaomi executive, Hugo Barra. From now on, he will be in charge of the company’s virtual reality projects. This includes Oculus, which Facebook acquired, back in 2014. His last job was at Xiaomi in Beijing. He was also in charge of a product for Android at Google, which is now part of Alphabet Inc. The company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was the one who officially made this announcement, through a post where else, but on Facebook. They reportedly have known each other for quite some time, since Barra was working for Google. Zuckerberg stated that he chose him for this very important job because they share the same opinion: that virtual reality is the next big thing.
A new face for the VR business
Hugo Barra posted a comment on Zuckerberg’s post which announced the news and said that he is now living his dream to work in the virtual reality business. He also posted a picture which shows him and Zuckerberg meeting in virtual reality as two avatars. According to him, he has been a fan of this technology ever since it was considered science-fiction. Now that it has become doable and a reality, he wishes to bring it forward to the mainstream audience and to make virtual reality something everyone can use.
Former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe stepped down from his position in December. Since then, the leading post in VR has been empty. Iribe is now coordinating only one of the two Oculus units. Barra will be overseeing the entire VR segment of the company.
Oculus had some problems with their Oculus Rift VR headset. One of the company’s founders, Palmer Luckey, was harshly criticized during the presidential campaign. He donated a large sum of money to an organization which was pro-Trump. Facebook paid $2 billion for Oculus back in 2014. Just this month, Mark Zuckerberg appeared in a court in Dallas to testify is a case of stolen intellectual property. The entire case concerned Oculus.
As for Facebook’s choice of putting Hugo Barra in such an important position, the company might have done this because of his Chinese market influence. He worked in Beijing, so he already knows what the people there want. Experts are saying that next year, 20 per cent of VR headsets are going to be sold on the Chinese market. So, there is a huge sphere of influence there and it is important to have someone who knows how things work.
All in all, it still remains to be seen whether or not VR technology could gain so much popularity to actually become mainstream. It is too soon and it could take years until this dream is realized. Facebook also has big plans for VR. Those include a new, PC-independent and more affordable VR headset, and the additional $250 million fund, destined exclusively for VR developments. We will see what the future brings. For now, it looks promising.
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