Oculus has hired Michael Hillman as the head of its hardware division in a recent move to promote the use of virtual reality and bring it to mainstream consumers. Hillman is an industry veteran and an expert at bringing technology to consumers' lives. He spent 15 years at Apple as a designer and engineer on the iMac line, with 4 years in an unspecified and confidential hardware role.
There have been rumors that Apple was working on augmented reality, but Hillman's consumer hardware experience is most likely what Oculus is interested in. Virtual reality hardware is still relatively niche and analysts suggest Oculus may not have moved as many units as they hoped when the Oculus Rift launched last year. Manufacturing difficulties also delayed supply. Oculus recently cut the price of the headset and controller by $100 and knocked the bundled unit down $200 to $598, which does not suggest headsets are flying off the shelves.
Virtual Reality Is Still Obscure Outside Enthusiasts
Part of the problem is that virtual reality hardware is expensive, and the price cut could be seen as an attempt to remedy this. Consumers also need a state of the art computer that is able to handle the intense graphics for virtual reality. Hardcore gamers will be set, but they are a minority and Oculus needs to enter the mainstream crowd to succeed. Software makers also haven't picked up virtual reality yet en masse, which they'll likely hold off on until they can guarantee it will be worth it to develop for.
To enter the mainstream market, virtual reality will need to be its own platform rather than an accessory component tied to a PC. Regular consumers want to pick up a headset and go, not buy an expensive modifier for an already expensive computer, much of which they may never get full use of. Oculus revealed an untethered prototype at their developer conference last year, nicknamed "Santa Cruz," but development on the hardware is still in its infancy, and there's no word when it could be ready for consumer use.
Facebook Takes On The Reins
Facebook has been taking more of a role in Oculus' business after acquiring them for $2 billion in 2014. The company recently switched things up at Oculus in the upper echelons of leadership, dividing the company into PC and mobile divisions. Co-founder Brendan Iribe stepped down as CEO of Oculus to lead the PC division and Oculus' founder Palmer Luckey is in an unspecified role. Iribe claims his switch was to take on a more "hands on" role in the company, but this also coincides with the lead up to the lawsuit where ZeniMax alleged Oculus stole trade secrets and was awarded $500 million for copyright infringement and false designation from the Oculus founders.
Facebook appears to be taking no chances with anyone who could be considered a liability or detrimental to the success of the platform, and their hiring shows a willingness to bring in outside talent in order to make virtual reality a success. Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been outspoken about his vision of virtual reality as the future of entertainment and Facebook wants to bring it to all consumers.
Facebook has been acquiring talent from all over, and Hillman is the latest in a series of hires. Former Fitbit Chief Operating Officer Hans Hartmann joined Oculus last year to take on the same role at the company. He and Hillman will be working together, according to Oculus spokeswoman Andrea Schubert.
Another notable hire joined Oculus as well in January. Xiaomi Corp. Vice President Hugo Barra was hired to oversee the virtual reality division, as Vice President of VR, though he has yet to start. Barra helped develop the Android operating system at Google. It definitely looks like Facebook is gearing up to go big with virtual reality, though whether they can convince the 2 billion users of their social media platform to adopt it is another matter.
Check out more about virtual reality:
- Is The Nintendo Switch Secretly Implementing VR Capability?
- 10 Amazing Video Games That Would Be Even Better In VR
- l fell down the Oculus Rift rabbit hole at E3 and came out a VR believer
Will VR succeed, or is it just a flash in the pan?