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Oculus Restructures, Puts Former CEO in Charge of PC Division

Variety logo Variety 12/13/2016 Janko Roettgers
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Facebook-owned Oculus has effectively demoted its CEO: Brendan Iribe, who has led the virtual reality company for four years, announced Wednesday that he has stepped away from his leadership role to head a newly-formed PC division. A separate mobile virtual reality division is being led by Jon Thomason, who joined Oculus just four months ago.

“I’ve decided to lead the PC VR group—pushing the state of VR forward with Rift, research and computer vision,” Iribe said in a blog post. “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.”

Facebook is now looking for a new executive to lead Oculus, but that person won’t be getting the CEO title, perhaps signaling a closer alignment of Oculus with Facebook itself.

The division into stationary and mobile VR groups makes sense to some degree, as both work in very different ways. Facebook has been cooperating with Samsung on mobile, supplying its software to power Samsung’s Gear VR headset. PC-based virtual reality on the other hand has been squarely about the company’s own headset, the Oculus Rift.

However, Oculus also announced at its developer conference in October that it was working on a standalone headset, which was combining technology from both areas. The development of this new device is now in the hands of the mobile group, an Oculus spokesperson confirmed.

Still unknown is the role that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey is going to play in all of this. Luckey has been out of sight ever since about his financial connections to right-wing demagogues broke in September. A spokesperson said Tuesday that Luckey still works at the company. “We’ll soon have more details on his role as well,” he said.

The restructuring comes at the end of a turbulent year for Oculus. The company struggled to keep up with demand for Rift pre-orders earlier this year, and didn’t start shipping the Oculus Touch controller until last week. This resulted in both HTC and Sony being able to ship VR headsets with controllers months before Oculus.

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