Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe is stepping down to lead a newly established internal PC virtual reality division, leaving the Facebook-owned company’s top leadership position open. Oculus announced today that it will be internally dividing into two groups, one focused on desktop-based VR like the Oculus Rift, and the other on mobile VR. Iribe is making the move right away, while Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer will help look for a new leader of the overall Oculus team. Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey remains with the company, where he will be moving to an undisclosed new role.
In a statement, Iribe says he’s moving in order to take a more hands-on role in development at Oculus. “As we've grown, I really missed the deep, day-to-day involvement in building a brand new product on the leading edge of technology,” he says. The PC division will apparently be devoted to “pushing the state of VR forward with Rift, research, and computer vision.” As before, research will be led by Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash, who will work under Iribe.
The mobile VR division of Oculus will be led by recent hire Jon Thomason, whose title is currently listed as Oculus head of software. So far, Oculus mobile development has been publicly spearheaded by CTO John Carmack, who worked with Samsung to help launch the Gear VR mobile platform in 2014. (An Oculus spokesperson says Carmack is on the mobile team, and his role will not change.) Oculus is likely to continue work with Samsung on mobile VR, but it also recently unveiled a self-contained prototype headset that isn’t reliant on a smartphone, so we don’t know the precise extent of its ambitions.
According to Iribe, creating dedicated divisions for mobile and PC will help Oculus “be more focused, strengthen development and accelerate our roadmap.” It’s also part of what he promises is a larger plan by Facebook, which acquired Oculus in early 2014. “Facebook is committed to working on VR for the long term, which means building the next great computing platform that allows people to experience anything with anyone and connects the world in bold new ways,” he writes. Facebook has its own social virtual reality division, and it’s also investing in VR-optional media like 360-degree video.
As Iribe noted, Oculus just released the Touch motion controllers, completing the launch of its first-generation desktop VR system. It’s going to be moving on to new hardware projects, while trying to grow the overall software ecosystem for virtual reality, so it’s a reasonable point for a reorganization. At the same time, the shakeup may reveal more about Oculus’ and Facebook’s relationship with Luckey, which has appeared strained since he donated money to a pro-Trump trolling group before the election. Luckey did not appear at this year’s Oculus Connect conference, and he’s remained quiet on social media. “Palmer still works at Oculus and he will be moving into a new role,” confirmed Oculus’ spokesperson. “We'll have more details to share soon.”
Correction: Oculus says that Schroepfer will be helping look for a new leader to manage Oculus, not a CEO.