Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Hugo Barra, who previously worked at Google and Xiaomi, will lead Facebook's virtual reality (VR) work.
Barra was the public face of Android before he left Google in 2013. Then he joined Xiaomi, a Chinese manufacturer that makes well-designed but low-cost Android smartphones and other devices, to guide its plans for international expansion. He announced earlier this month that he planned to leave Xiaomi, and now he'll work with Facebook and its Oculus subsidiary on their VR efforts. As Zuckerberg said in the announcement of Barra's hire:
I've known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he's worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people. [...] Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They'll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I'm looking forward to having him on our team.
And here's Barra in a response to Zuckerberg's post:
Thanks, Mark! I can't wait to get started in building that future and join the team in a couple of months. It's been a dream of mine to work in virtual reality even back when AR/VR were just figments of science fiction; now we're taking selfies in virtual worlds :) I learned from Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun that there's no greater calling in our industry than taking breakthrough tech and making it available to the greatest number of people. Really looking forward to doing just that at Facebook — taking VR mainstream — working with you, Brendan, Mike Schroepfer, and the Oculus team!
Barra's hire comes just a few months after Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was subject to community and developer backlash for his alleged involvement with an anti-Hillary Clinton group. Luckey has been kept out of the public eye since--he didn't even speak at the Oculus Connect 3 developer conference in October 2016, which left much of the mandatory hype-building to Zuckerberg and Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe. Yet even that dynamic duo couldn't last.
Iribe announced in December 2016 that he stepped down as Oculus CEO to focus on the PC VR side of the business. An interim chief executive wasn't announced; Oculus was effectively left without someone to steer the rudder even as it debuted a VR film at the Sundance Film Festival, finally got its Oculus Touch motion controllers to the masses, and continued work on its products. Now it seems that Barra will be donning the captain's hat.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.