Oculus VR has a major hire — Michael Abrash will be leaving Valve to join Facebook's latest acquisition as its chief scientist. Abrash had been pioneering wearable technology at Valve for several years; as he writes on the Oculus blog, he had spent time developing augmented reality technology but came to realize that VR had far more potential than AR. This happened during the rise of Oculus over the last year and a half, with intelligence going back and forth between Valve and Oculus thanks to the longstanding relationship between Abrash and Oculus CTO John Carmack.
Now, Abrash and Carmack will be reunited at Oculus, a company that has quickly emerged as the de-facto company pushing VR into the mainstream. Abrash had already solidified himself as one of the modern experts in VR thanks to a presentation at Valve's Steam Dev Days this past January, and now he'll be yet another big piece of the puzzle for Oculus (though there aren't any details on what his specific role will entail).
It also provides a strong rebuff to the notion that top VR talent won't be as inclined to join Oculus now that it will soon be owned by Facebook. In fact, Abrash specifically addresses those concerns in his blog post, saying that Facebook's backing means that virtual reality is perhaps the best-case scenario for those who want to see VR become a reality:
Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.
While Facebook's support and financial security certainly may be a big factor in Abrash's confidence in Oculus, there's no doubt he's also quite excited to be reuniting with Carmack — the two collaborated on Quake, one of the more influential games of the last twenty years, and Abrash noted that Carmack was one of the first people to see the potential of VR. "It's great to be working with John again after all these years, and with that comes a sense of deja vu," write Abrash. "It feels like it did when I went to Id, but on steroids — this time we're working on technology that will change not just computer gaming, but potentially how all of us interact with computers, information, and each other every day."
That's the same sentiment we've heard from other Oculus employees and Mark Zuckerberg himself regarding Facebook's purchase of Oculus. Time will tell if developers will buy into the new Facebook / Oculus partnership as Abrash has, but having someone of his caliber on the team certainly won't hurt the company's efforts.