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A better Rift: Oculus hires former Valve VR engineer

Atman Binstock's VR Room at the Steam Devs Day converence.

Above: Atman Binstock's VR Room at the Steam Devs Day converence.

Image Credit: Serenity Forge

To make a great product, you need great people. Oculus VR is hoping its latest hire is exactly that.

One of the former leads on Valve’s virtual-reality project is now working on the Oculus Rift. Atman Binstock has left the Half-Life developer to head up a new research-and-development group for Oculus VR as chief architect. Binstock helped drive Valve’s VR development, and he was key in solving some of the issues associated with the technology. He joins recent hire John Carmack, formerly of id Software. They, along with the rest of the Oculus staff, will improve the Rift head-mounted display to prepare it for its eventual consumer release, which could potentially come before the end of this year.

“Just over two years ago, [Valve hardware chief] Michael Abrash and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Kirkland [Wash.],” Binstock said in a statement. “He was trying to convince me to come work on augmented reality and virtual reality with him at Valve.”

Binstock explained that he wasn’t sure about the move until Abrash convinced him that virtual reality wouldn’t really happen unless smart and dedicated people tried to figure it out. Binstock did join Valve, and he got to work on some of the issues that would keep VR from working with a mass audience. Most notably, he helped reduce the “simulator sickness” that some people feel when they use a VR headset for too long.

“Two years later, we’ve solved some of basic problems and proven great VR is not only possible but truly magical,” he said. “And now I want to bring it to the world.”

That last part is important. While Valve is working on its own VR technology, it does not have any plans to sell it as a consumer product. Instead, the company is working with others to hep realize the best VR possible.

“A great VR system at a consumer price in 2015 is more than just possible — it’s sitting there waiting to happen,” Valve’s Abrash said. “And it will happen, if not in 2015, then soon after. Virtual reality on the PC over the next few years may be as exciting as anything that’s ever happened in games.”

Oculus VR is moving to deliver a commercial version of its Rift headset potentially by the end of this year. If Binstock wants to bring immersive gaming experiences to the world, Oculus is a good place to land a job.

This is the second big hire for Oculus VR in recent months. Back in August, the company brought on John Carmack, the co-creator of the classic PC shooter Quake. He is now the chief technology officer and is working on improving the software that drives the device.

Oculus is a startup that raised $2.4 million in a hugely successful crowdfunding drive on Kickstarter. It has since raised $75 million in further funding rounds.

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