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Android Veteran Hugo Barra Joins Facebook As VR Head

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Big name signing to lead Facebook’s virtual reality team at Oculus, and welcomed personally onboard by Zuckerberg

Technology veteran Hugo Barra has been appointed to led the Oculus virtual reality (VR) team, after his departure from Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi.

Facebook acquired VR headset maker Oculus back in 2014 $2 billion (£1.8bn), and Barra was personally welcomed to the Facebook family by CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post on the social network.

“I’m excited that Hugo Barra is joining Facebook to lead all of our virtual reality efforts, including our Oculus team,” Zuckerberg posted.

Oculus-Rift-5Android Veteran

“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,” wrote Zuckerberg.

“Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform,” he added. “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.”

“Thanks, Mark! I can’t wait to get started in building that future and join the team in a couple of months,” replied Barra. “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 :) I learned from Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun that there’s no greater calling in our industry than taking breakthrough tech and making it available to the greatest number of people.”

Barra was the former vice president for product management for Android at Google, having joined the search engine giant from speech technology firm Nuance in 2008.

Barra was also one of the more public figures associated with Android as he was one of its developers.

Personal Reasons

However he surprised the industry when he announced his departure from Google in August 2013 to join Xiaomi.

Whilst at Xiaomi, he expanded the international profile of the Chinese firm, but it seems that he wanted to leave China and return to the United States, in order to be closer to his friends and family.

Earlier this month Mark Zuckerberg was forced to testify in a Dallas federal court, where he denied claims that Oculus used technology from another company.

The case was brought by games developer ZeniMax, who alleged that John Carmack, known for his work on games such as Doom and Quake, collaborated with Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey while Carmack was under contract to ZeniMax, and that the two later destroyed evidence of the collaboration.

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