Oculus VR loses CEO as Facebook splits company in two

December 14, 2016 // 10:24 a.m.

Tags: #brendan-iribe #facebook #mobile-vr #oculus-rift #oculus-vr #pc-vr #virtual-reality #vr-headset

Oculus VR is to lose its chief executive officer, Brendan Iribe, as corporate overlord Facebook telegraphs an eagerness to hedge its bets on the platform's success against rivals in the virtual reality space.

Acquired by Facebook for £1.6 billion in 2014 following a massively successful crowdfunding campaign, Oculus VR has recently encountered heavy competition in the virtual reality market from phone maker HTC with its Vive hardware and entertainment giant Sony via the PlayStation VR platform formerly known as Project Morpheus. While far from struggling, thanks to the recent launch of the Oculus Touch controllers to bring it to a rough feature parity with HTC's Vive and Facebook's impressive coffers backing it up, there is evidence that its owner is beginning to worry that Oculus VR may not be the winner of the ongoing race for leadership of the VR market: it's splitting its efforts in three separate directions.

Oculus VR chief executive Brendan Iribe is, he announced in a blog post published late last night, no longer going to lead the company. Instead, he is to run a dedicated PC VR group within Facebook. Although Iribe has indicated that the group will be responsible for 'pushing the state of VR forward with Rift, research and computer vision,' its formation outside the Oculus VR umbrella suggests it will also be looking towards support for devices outside Oculus VR's closed ecosystem - a heavy suggestion that Facebook is looking to hedge its bets. Iribe's announcement also reveals the formation of a mobile-centric VR group within Facebook, an area into which Oculus VR has already dipped its toes through its partnership with Samsung on the Gear VR platform.

Iribe has stated that Jon Thomason, a recent Oculus VR hire, will be running the mobile team, while no replacement for the role of Oculus VR's chief executive officer has yet been found.

'I'm thrilled to be on the front lines of creating the next leap forward in VR,' Iribe claimed in his announcement. 'We’ll continue investing deeply in research and development in computer vision, displays, optics, graphics, audio, input, and more to create the breakthroughs that will unlock new form factors and experiences. We’re going to move faster at solving the grand challenges of virtual reality.'

UPDATE 1547:
An updated statement from Oculus VR provided to RoadToVR clarifies that Facebook's plan is to split Oculus VR into two, rather than three, 'teams': the PC VR team which includes the Oculus Research division and those responsible for the Rift hardware, and the Mobile VR team which includes those who have worked with Samsung and others on mobile implementations of Oculus technology.
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