Above: Amir Frenkel.
The head of computer vision at Facebook’s virtual reality subsidiary, Oculus, has been replaced following his arrest related to an underage sex sting operation, TechCrunch has learned.
Dov Katz was arrested at an Embassy Suites outside of Seattle in late December after allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover officer who he believed, at the time of meeting, was a 15-year-old girl. Katz allegedly agreed to pay $300 for sex.
Katz has been replaced by Amir Frenkel, who — according to LinkedIn — joined Facebook in November of last year as director of engineering before transitioning to his role as head of computer vision at Oculus last month. Before joining Facebook, Frenkel served as head of wearables engineering at Google, where he worked on initiatives surrounding the Google Glass and the Project Aura augmented reality products.
An Oculus spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that Katz is no longer an employee at the company.
This scandal comes at a particularly bad time for Oculus, which has been in the throes of an executive overhaul over the last several months that has seen many of the company’s most prominent employees shifting roles or leaving while the virtual reality company, which Facebook acquired in 2014, grows more organizationally integrated beneath its parent company.
In December, Oculus co-founder and CEO Brendan Iribe suddenly announced that he would be stepping down from his role to lead PC-based VR initiatives at the company. Ex-Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra took over the reins of the company last month, but not as Oculus’ CEO. Instead, his title is that of Facebook’s “VP of VR,” overseeing VR initiatives at both Facebook and Oculus.
Just a few weeks ago, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey left the company he helped start in his garage following several months of public silence related to a scandal surrounding his funding of an anti-Clinton online action group during the 2016 presidential election. The scandal — and Luckey’s later admission — angered many in the developer community, with some threatening to boycott development on the platform.
This situation with Katz has obviously been an outlier during the current leadership woes but has nevertheless been damaging to the company, which is blazing ahead with its computer vision tech as it readies new virtual reality and augmented reality products.