Commentary

Oculus Founder Departs Facebook

Casting a shadow over its nascent virtual reality business, Facebook just lost Oculus founder Palmer Luckey.

Beyond wishing Luckey the best, the social giant isn’t discussing the details of his departure, or its broader implications.    

For Facebook, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Indeed, the global VR market is on pace to surpass $60 billion by 2021, according to fresh findings from ABI Research.

For now, however, the tech titan’s VR business appears to be in good hands. At the beginning of the year, Facebook named Hugo Barra to lead its virtual reality efforts, including the Oculus team.

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Zuckerberg’s bullishness on virtual reality is no secret. He made his passion for VR clear by agreeing to spend $2 billion on Oculus VR in 2014. 

Marking the occasion of Barra’s appointment, Zuckerberg said: “Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform.”

Separate from the Oculus deal, Facebook has already pumped $250 million into VR research and development. It has set aside an additional $250 for future VR investments, Zuckerberg told those who tuned into an Oculus Connect event, last October. 

Of particular interest, $50 million of that cash has been earmarked for mobile VR content, Zuckerberg said.

Naturally, there are games, including VR Sports Challenge, a sci-fi first-person shooter game named Arktika, and The Unspoken, which has been described as an “urban magic fight club."

Zuckerberg and his team also unveiled Oculus Avatars, which give users an eerily lifelike presence in virtual environments.

The avatars can be customized to one’s liking, then put to use at “parties” -- where up to eight users can engage in virtual socializing -- as well in more private “rooms.”

Worldwide, the VR market is already made up of more than 460 companies, ABI calculates.

Among that group, about 60% are focused on creating VR applications, content distribution or the VR systems themselves, more than a third (35%) are involved in the media and entertainment industries, and 10% are focused on marketing and retail.

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