SAN FRANCISCO — Hugo Barra, the former Google executive who left Xiaomi Corp. this week, has signed on at Facebook to lead all of the giant social network’s virtual reality efforts including Oculus.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the surprise announcement in a Facebook post Wednesday night.
“Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They’ll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I’m looking forward to having him on our team,” Zuckerberg wrote.
The Facebook post was accompanied by a digitized image of the two executives in Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters. “Hugo’s in China right now,” Zuckerberg wrote. “So here we are together in VR. It seems fitting.”
In a Twitter post, Barra, who this week left Xiaomi where he ran the Chinese phone maker’s global division, said he was signing on as Facebook’s vice president of virtual reality.
In a comment on Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, he wrote: “It’s been a dream of mine to work in virtual reality even back when AR/VR were just figments of science fiction; now we’re taking selfies in virtual worlds.”
Zuckerberg has hailed virtual reality as the next major computing platform after mobile devices. That spurred Facebook’s purchase of Oculus. Beyond Oculus, Facebook envisions a not too distant future in which people can connect and gather in virtual spaces.
Last February during an appearance at Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg hailed VR as “the most social platform.”
“Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there, right there in person,” Zuckerberg said.
Picking up Barra is a major coup for Facebook. Barra, who was recruited by Xiaomi from a top Android job at Google in in 2013, will lead Oculus which has been without a CEO since last month when Brendan Iribe took on a different role.
“I’ve known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he’s worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people,” Zuckerberg said.
Barra brings experience with mobile software and with hardware, which he will need to guide Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Gear products which have yet to develop mainstream appeal. He also helped Xiaomi debut its own virtual reality headset.
In testimony last week in a lawsuit brought against Oculus by game publisher Zenimax, Zuckerberg said Facebook would spend $3 billion over the next decade to help bring virtual reality to the world.
Source: USA Today