Oculus, the virtual reality company Facebook
acquired for $2 billion in 2014, is searching for a new leader.
Brendan Iribe, who cofounded Oculus with Palmer Luckey in 2012, announced in a blog post that he is stepping down from his role as CEO to lead one of two new Oculus divisions. Iribe said Oculus will be divided into PC and mobile virtual reality (VR) groups to "be more focused, strengthen development and accelerate our road map." Iribe said he will lead the PC group to focus on Oculus Rift, research and computer vision. Jon Thomason, who joined Oculus this summer, will lead the mobile VR group. Iribe said he and Thomason will work with Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer to find a new CEO to lead the entire Oculus team.
Luckey, who came under scrutiny before the U.S. presidential election for donating to a pro-Donald Trump political organization called Nimble America, was not mentioned in Iribe's post. However, Facebook said Luckey will remain at Oculus in a new role that has not yet been announced. Luckey said in a Facebook post in September that he donated $10,000 to Nimble America because he "thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards" and apologized for "negatively impacting the perception of Oculus." In his post, Luckey said he was not planning to donate further to the organization and planned to vote for Gary Johnson. Luckey's absence at Oculus' Connect conference in October raised questions about his standing with Facebook.
In Tuesday's announcement, Iribe said he missed the day-to-day process of building a product and is looking forward to focusing on engineering and product in his narrowed role.
"I’m thrilled to be on the front lines of creating the next leap forward in VR," Iribe said. "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."
Thomason joined Oculus in August as head of software. He previously worked as a VP of engineering at Qualcomm and VP of mobile shipping at Amazon. Oculus' head of mobile Max Cohen and CTO John Carmack will be part of the mobile team, while Oculus' chief scientist Michael Abrash and VP of product Nate Mitchell will work on the PC team.
Oculus rounded out the launch of its first-generation desktop VR system last week, when it started shipping its $199 Touch motion controllers to the public. The controllers have been well-received as a feature that makes Oculus' virtual reality experience more immersive. In October, Oculus said it will commit an additional $250 million to fund a range of new content, such as games and entertainment, betting that "great software experiences" are the next frontier of VR. The funding is an addition to the $250 million Oculus has already pledged to content development, and $10 million of the fund will be allocated specifically for educational virtual reality material.
Also in October, Facebook said it is building a standalone, affordable VR headset that isn't tethered to a PC like the current Oculus Rift. The company has unveiled its new earphones, which are priced at $49 and offer users better sound, a new web browser users can navigate in virtual reality called "Carmel" and Oculus avatars, which resemble the user and can mimic movement and facial expressions. And Oculus has said it plans to launch live streaming tools for virtual reality down the road.