Law enforcement officials are investigating an apparent attack on the virtual reality center at Northeastern University after an employee was injured opening a package Tuesday evening.
The employee, who works at the VR center, suffered lacerations to his hands but was not seriously injured. Authorities told CNN that the package included a hard plastic case which “depressurized with the force of an explosion” after being opened. But contrary to earlier reports, the package did not include explosives or any detonation mechanism. Authorities also said the package was not delivered through the US postal service, and it remains unclear how it arrived at the lab.
The attack appears to be politically motivated by fear of VR technology, as it was accompanied by a rambling note attacking Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and broader academic research on augmented reality devices, also per CNN.
Northeastern University hosts a number of VR-oriented facilities, including an Immersive Media Labs Suite that “includes technologies for design, development, and exploration of virtual worlds, AR/VR/XR, and 360 video.” A separate student organization provides students with free access to VR hardware.
Per police reports, the package triggered alarms shortly after 7PM ET. University police declared the scene “contained” just before 10PM. The suspect remains at large.
Speaking to Newsweek, a UK-based counterterrorism expert noted similarities to the Unabomber attacks, which killed three and injured dozens more over the course of 17 years. Notably, those attacks were carried out by mail bomb and motivated by a paranoid fear of technology.
Update 11:41AM ET: Updated with authorities’ claim that the package did not include a conventional bomb.