Oculus took the stage for the keynote presentation at its annual Connect developer conference today, and founder Palmer Luckey did not make an appearance.
Instead of Luckey, Oculus trotted out chief executive Brendan Iribe, vice president of product Nate Mitchell, and chief science officer Michael Abrash to give attendees a glimpse at the future. Along with those staples of Oculus events, the company also had people like diversity project manager Ebony Peay Ramirez and creative producer Yelena Rachitsky take the spotlight to discuss their areas of expertise. But the most notable stage presence at Oculus Connect was Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. He spoke at length about VR and its social implications, and it seems clear that Facebook is taking a larger role in the leadership of the VR brand it acquired for $2 billion in 2014.
Seeing Facebook take the reins may reassure many people who were upset with Luckey following a report from news site The Daily Beast that revealed he spent $10,000 to fund an alt-right pro-Trump group called Nimble America. The Oculus founder got involved in the organization by working with reactionary opportunist and Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos. Nimble America wants to influence the election by running anti-Hillary Clinton internet memes and images on billboards to reach people in swing states like Pennsylvania. The combination of Luckey’s alleged Trump support (which he has denied), his funding of political memes (which he confirmed), and his association with Yiannopoulos enraged many people, including some developers working on VR games.
Following the outrage from some consumers and developers, Luckey took to Facebook to apologize that his actions are hurting Oculus VR.
Luckey is widely considered one of the fathers of modern virtual reality. He designed the bulk of the early Oculus Rift prototypes, and he has acted as the face of the technology and the Oculus VR company ever since. That previously came to a head earlier this year when the Rift finally launched and immediately experienced supply constraints. Luckey would regularly interact with fans and angry customers online, especially on forums on the Reddit website. These kinds of interactions have largely come to an end for Luckey over the summer as consumers became increasingly upset that the Rifts they preordered still had not arrived months after their original ship dates.
At this point, Luckey isn’t only silent about Oculus on Reddit, he isn’t even talking about the company he founded during the keynote of its most important annual event.
For insights into VR’s future, you’ll have to listen to Zuckerberg instead.