Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey is to leave Facebook

31 Mar 2017

Oculus headset. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

VR pioneer will be dearly missed at Facebook, according to the social media giant.

Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey, who sold the virtual reality (VR) company to Facebook for $2bn, is to leave the latter.

The departure comes after a year that saw the consumer launch of the Oculus Rift VR headset, but also Luckey and Facebook being embroiled in a high-profile lawsuit over intellectual property (IP).

Luckey is regarded as one of the kick-starters of the VR revolution along with John Carmack. Indeed, a highly successful Kickstarter campaign brought Oculus early acclaim.

Facebook acquired Oculus in March 2014 for $2bn. It is understood that VR is close to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s heart, as the next epoch of business and consumer communications.

A Rift in the Facebook camp?

However, despite a successful product launch last year, the champagne was put on ice due to a massive lawsuit battle over IP.

In February, a court awarded $500m in damages to ZeniMax over the breach of an NDA by Luckey, resulting in the unlawful use of ZeniMax’s VR technology.

It could have been worse. ZeniMax originally sought $6bn.

Luckey’s woes didn’t end there. News emerged of his alleged involvement in a pro-troll group called Nimble America, at a time when the most prominent Silicon Valley figures were distancing themselves from the Trump regime.

Developers threatening to leave the Oculus platform prompted Luckey to apologise, despite initially denying any involvement with the group.

Luckey’s failure to appear at the Oculus Developer Conference in autumn ignited further speculation about the VR pioneer’s future.

In a statement reported by TechCrunch, Facebook said: “Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kick-start the modern VR revolution and build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.”

Oculus headset. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years