I had a chance to talk with Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey about the past, present, & future of XR where he reveals to me that his defense contracting company Anduril has more people employed working on VR than Oculus did when it was bought out by Facebook. Anduril is working on creating immersive virtual reality user interfaces, custom VR headsets, and some cutting-edge perception augmentation beyond sight. We cover what he’s working on now in VR now, where he sees XR and human augmentation going in the future, and also reflect on some of the early days of consumer VR as we start to hit various 10-year anniversaries and dig into some interesting oral history elaborations of VR regarding Valve, Sony, and what ultimately led to Luckey getting fired from Facebook.
We start with a the DK1 launch on March 29, 2013 as the 10-year anniversary is coming up next month, and then we talk about how his trip to Sundance 2012 with his Rift prototype with Nonny de la Peña’s Hunger in LA convinced him of the power of VR beyond gaming and gamers. We unpack some of the tensions that arose in the academic community, the early cooperation and collaboration with Sony and Valve, and then the subsequent fallout with Valve. We talk about some of the technical challenges that prevented the Oculus store from supporting competing headsets, with a deep dive into the differences between Valve’s OpenVR and OpenXR.
We then dig into what he can say about getting fired from Facebook, which the official reason provided was that there was no reason at all and he shares his perspective on why he was fired. Luckey confirmed that he willingly signed NDAs that had some finanical payout that has enabled him to start his next venture, but it’s still unclear what he can and cannot talk about. Blake Harris originally reported in his book History of the Future that Luckey would only receive the final portions of the money he was due from Facebook’s Oculus acquisition “if Luckey would be willing to leave the VR industry and sign a non-disparagement agreement (so that, in perpetuity, he’d been unable to say anything bad about Oculus, Facebook or the employees at either entity).”
Harris has the most extensive treatment of why Luckey got fired from Facebook covered in his History of the Future book, and in an UploadVR piece he wrote up a timeline of events that started on September 22, 2016 with a Daily Beast article “The Facebook Billionaire Secretly Funding Trump’s Meme Machine”. Harris writes, “In mid-September 2016, Palmer Luckey donated just shy of $10,000 to a recently formed pro-Trump non-profit organization called Nimble America. At the time of his donation, the entire body of Nimble America’s work consisted of putting up a single billboard in the Pittsburgh area.” But yet this got translated into articles like Ars Technica’s “Oculus Rift is Secretly Funding Donald Trump’s Racist Meme Wars” and Boing Boing’s “Facebook ‘Near-Billionaire’ Palmer Luckey Secretly Funding Racist Pro-Trump Hate Meme Machine.”
There wasn’t any evidence that Luckey was funding an extensive online meme war driven by racism, but yet the public perception of this created a PR nightmare for Facebook, which then put Luckey on a 6-month leave of absence before firing him on March 30, 2017 after the Zenimax lawsuit wrapped up. There weren’t any clear reasons ever provided, and UploadVR’s Ian Hamilton wrote up some reflections on the mystery here: ‘So… What Really Did Happen With Palmer [Luckey]’.
Luckey claims that he was fired due to political reasons, which the The Wall Street Journal seemed to confirm this to some degree by saying, “Internal Facebook emails suggest the matter was discussed at the highest levels of the company. In the fall of 2016, as unhappiness over the donation simmered, Facebook executives including Mr. Zuckerberg pressured Mr. Luckey to publicly voice support for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, despite Mr. Luckey’s years long support of Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the conversations and internal emails viewed by The Wall Street Journal.”
In a series of Tweets that are now deleted, Andrew Bosworth said, “As we told the WSJ, politics had nothing to do with Palmer’s departure. Any claims that his departure was do to his conservative beliefs are false.”
The WSJ article continues to say, “Mr. Luckey and his lawyer negotiated a payout of at least $100 million, representing an acceleration of stock awards and bonuses he would have received through July 2019, plus cash, according to the people familiar with the matter. The stock awards and bonuses were a result of selling his virtual-reality company, Oculus VR, to Facebook in 2014 for more than $2 billion, a deal that netted him a total of about $600 million.” Luckey confirmed to me that he has signed NDAs, but it’s not clear the conditions or deeper context of when or why he came to this agreement.
We wrap up our conversation by covering some of the command and control apps and immersive displays Anduril is building for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which is a part of the Department of Defense’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative to connect sensors and communications from all of the military services of the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force into a single network.
Luckey also talked a bit about some of the cutting-edge AR experimentation that he’s doing to hacking perceptual input beyond what we see — whether that’s through peripheral nervous system bypasses or using the tongue as an input device like the BrainPort Vision Pro.
I’m giving a Featured Session talk at SXSW this year on “The Ultimate Potential of VR: Promises & Perils” on Sunday March 12, 2023 at 4p CT, and I wanted to get some of the latest ideas of where XR is at and where it could be going, and Luckey may actually be even more on the bleeding edge of XR now that he’s not constrained by the scale of consumer VR. He’s able to push the edge of what’s possible with the medium, and he’s got some interesting takes on moving beyond the limits of our visual perception in how there might be other embodied inputs into the brain that changes how we might think about augmented reality and human augmentation in the future.
This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.
[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye, and welcome to The Voices of VR Podcast. So before we dive into today's episode, I wanted to give a brief announcement that I'll be giving a featured session talk at South by Southwest called The Ultimate Potential of VR Promises and Perils. I'll be covering the full landscape of opportunities that we have in VR, as well as some of the different ethical and moral dilemmas. based upon my episode 1,000, The Voices of VR, but expanding it out and trying to, the best I can, give a digest of where things are at and where they're going within VR. That'll be on March 12th in the Austin Convention Center from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., so if you're at Southwest Health West, come out and check out the talk. Today's episode came about because we're coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Oculus DK1 being released on March 29th, 2013. So this was a developer kit from Oculus that was sent out to tens of thousands of indie game developers and really kick-started the consumer VR revolution that we're currently under. So I wanted to talk to Palmer Luckey to get some reflections on this time period because it was such a unique moment in the history, the evolution of this VR renaissance to get a little bit more context as to his journey into VR and his trip to Sundance in January 2012 before even the Oculus Kickstarter had even launched. And so I wanted to get some of those stories. his relationship to the academic community and the modding community, but also this collaborative relationship that was happening with Sony and the Project Morpheus and the PlayStation VR, as well as with Valve and what happened to that collaboration with Valve. So we go into lots of details, actually, into the reasons why Oculus wasn't giving support to, say, HTC Vive and all the dynamics that were happening with Valve that were preventing some of that from actually taking place. Wanted to also get a bit of his take of what's happening with his new company, Anduril. He actually tells me in this conversation that he has more people working on VR right now at Anduril than were working on VR when he sold Oculus to Facebook, which is kind of interesting to hear. Some of the different aspects of what they're working on with the advanced battle management system, but also other more tactical aspects of the future of virtual and augmented reality and augmenting perception. And he also talks a bit about getting fired from Facebook. He tells me in this conversation that he willingly entered into a non-disclosure agreement. So there are certain aspects with Facebook that he can't actually talk about. But I wanted to do just a brief recap of what happened with Palmer, because I know this is certainly still a point of contention with a lot of people within the XR industry. So essentially, There was an article in the Daily Beast that was published on September 22nd 2016 It was titled Palmer lucky the Facebook billionaire secretly funding Trump's mean machine So in the aftermath of this story, there's a lot of other stories that come on, and there's basically a PR nightmare from Facebook. And Blake Harris actually is an author, he wrote History of the Future. And I think in that book, there's probably the most detailed breakdown as to what happened with this whole situation. Blake had this really privileged access to Facebook and Oculus at the time. lots of different documents talking to people getting this history now his style of writing that history is a dramatized narrative that is Not necessarily verbatim quotes because he's kind of reconstructing dialogue and conversations where people have imperfect memory but also he's taking a dramatic twist where you can't really necessarily know what is, in terms of a historical document, you know for sure what is going to be a dramatization. But I get the sense that there's certain parts of the story talking about what happened with Palmer that isn't explored anywhere else. And so what Blake said in a conversation I had with him that I published on February 20th of 2019, the day after his book was published, was, you know, he essentially was collaborating pretty closely with Oculus until this Daily Beast article went viral. After that point, his access got cut off, but he had enough to be able to finish the book. But Palmer getting fired was actually a big turning point in not only how he was telling the story, but also how the story of Palmer ended up. So there's a lot of stuff in Blake's book that digs into what happened there. And he ended up writing this article in Upload VR on April 27, 2017. It was called This is How Fake News Happens, The Reporting of Palmer Luckey in Nimble America. And in this article, he walks through the process of how this initial report came out. But then he says that we think of fake news as a binary thing, that the story is either fake or it's not. A story is either fabricated, Elvis lives, or true, clubs win the World Series. But in many cases, that's not really how fake news actually works. Instead, it starts with a misleading or inaccurate story. one often with a sexy headline, then spews through social media, energized by outrage, support, or concern, then ripples into a dogpile of stories that either echo the original piece, but with a twist, or amplify the outrage, support, concern by talking about what other people are talking about. So he goes on to say, after the Daily Beast article was published, that there were some of the other pieces that followed, like Ars Technica's How Your Oculus Rift is Secretly Funding Donald Trump's Racist Meme Wars, or Boing Boing's Facebook's Near Billionaire of Palmer Luckey's Secretly Funding Racist Pro-Trump Hate Meme Machine. And Blake continues by saying, as well as the social media assassination of Palmer Luckey and his girlfriend, an assassination that, by the way, I'd argue would have been warranted if what was described in those headlines had actually been true. But that's just not the case, not even close. I can go into more detail if you'd like, but here's a generic overview of what happened and why. Initially, for my own records, I put together this timeline. So then Blake goes through and in this article, he's tracking how this information got disseminated out. There's an initial report, there's a headline that is mentioning a meme, and then other articles are doing a copy and paste job and potentially not even doing any additional reporting, and then amplifying and expanding out what the original claims were, which was Palmer funding entity that was making a billboard. But it suddenly transforms into a funding of this whole entire meme warfare effort that was happening online that I think goes above and beyond what the original facts are showing. It's sort of a hyperbolic expansion as to what actually happened. Now, it's arguable that you could look at Trump and some of the different behaviors of Trump that had elements of racism and sexism, misogyny, you know, certainly as exhibited by Trump himself. But to take those claims and attach them to anyone who makes a political donation, I think is what kind of happened in this situation. It essentially created this PR nightmare for Facebook at the time and they didn't want to have to deal with it. They had Oculus Connect that was coming up and Palmer gets put into a leave of absence for about six months where he's forced out and put onto an involuntary vacation. But early in 2017 was this ZeniMax lawsuit that Palmer was a defendant in and had to go there and testify and so they couldn't necessarily cut ties with Palmer immediately so they wait until the lawsuit has finished and then they essentially fire him. And on March 30th of 2017, Upload VR broke the news that Oculus co-founder and Rift creator Palmer Luckey departs Facebook. And basically he was absent for about six months. There was not really a reason given. And Palmer was later alleging that he was fired for his political beliefs. And there was actually a Wall Street Journal article that came out on November 11th of 2018 said, why did Facebook fire a top executive? Hint, it had something to do with Trump. Palmer Luckey, co-founder of virtual reality pioneer Oculus, was ousted after his political activities sparked a furor within the social media giant in Silicon Valley. In this Wall Street Journal article, they say, internal Facebook emails suggest that the matter was discussed at the highest levels of the company in the fall of 2016 as unhappiness over the donation simmered. Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, pressured Mr. Luckey to publicly voice support for libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, despite Mr. Luckey's years-long support of Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the conversations and internal emails viewed by the Wall Street Journal. The article goes on and says that then Mr. Lucky and his lawyer negotiated a payout of at least $100 million, representing an acceleration of stock awards and bonuses he would have received through July of 2018, plus cash, according to the people familiar with the matter. The stock awards and bonuses were a result of selling his virtuality company, Oculus VR, to Facebook in 2014 for more than $2 billion, a deal that netted him a total of about $600 million. So, in the History of the Future, Blake Harris is recounting what happened when Palmer Luckey was in his leave of absence. Blake Harris says that the only fight remained was to try to get a portion of the money he was still due, which seemed possible if Luckey would be willing to leave the VR industry and sign a non-disparagement agreement so that, in perpetuity, he'd be unable to say anything bad about Oculus, Facebook, or the employees at either entity. So Blake was alleging that there was a certain NDA that he had to sign, certain things that he may or may not be able to say, and Palmer is traveling to Japan, and people are asking him, so Facebook fired you because of your political views? And Palmer says, I can't comment on that. Lucky replied to a 20-something Japanese VR enthusiast, and then they respond, because of an NDA? Another one of the enthusiasts asks, I'm sorry, Lucky replied, I can't say. So at that point, he wasn't able to say whether or not he had signed an NDA. So it looked like that for a while Palmer was under an NDA and he couldn't say anything about it. And I think there's probably an exploration of that because he started at least saying that he was fired from Facebook. But I think there's still things, according to my conversation with him, where he's saying he entered into an NDA agreement willingly. And I get the impression that there still may be things that he can't exactly talk about as to what happened. So anyway, that's a long sort of contextualization that I just wanted to step through some of that because it helps set a bit of a context for talking about what actually happened to him with Facebook. So that's what we're covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Palmer happened on Friday, February 3rd, 2023. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.
[00:10:11.162] Palmer Luckey: My name is Palmer Luckey. I'm the founder of Oculus and the designer of the Rift. At least I was. I'm running a defense company called Anduril now, but before that I started Oculus when I was living in a 19 foot camper trailer. It was just me. Then grew that up from just me all the way to 1,400 people before I got fired. So, you know, I designed the original Oculus Rift, was one of the key architects on all of the systems we built after that into 2017. Led the controller and input team at Oculus for a while before it was publicly known that we had such a thing. which resulted obviously in Oculus Touch, which at the time was certainly the best VR input device. And depending on how you measure good is still the best today. But you know, there's some good stuff. The Quest Pro controllers are really the final expression of a lot of the things we're trying to do. And beyond that, you know, obviously Oculus funded a lot of VR content, both internally and externally. And I had the pleasure of working with a lot of game developers who were working on VR before it was the hottest thing, before everyone was talking about the metaverse. And that was a really, something I'm really proud of doing.
[00:11:17.589] Kent Bye: Maybe you could give a bit more context as to your background and your journey into VR.
[00:11:22.675] Palmer Luckey: Sure. You know, I started working on VR just as a hobby when I was a teenager. I was really into PC gaming. I had built a really high end PC gaming setup. And as I made it better and better, and I got to the point where I had an AM, well, at the time it was ATI. So I had an ATI iFinity rig and six monitors set up. And I realized that the future of gaming was not going to be more monitors, bigger monitors. Obviously there's a point where it was going to be something different. And I realized that point was likely to be virtual reality. In other words, VR was not maybe the next step in gaming, but it was certainly the last step. And that got me really excited about working on VR as a hobby. because working on something ahead of its time is always quite a bit of fun. And I started building head-mounted displays of my own, started taking apart a lot of units that were built in the 80s and the 90s, the early 2000s, learning about what worked and learning what didn't. And in the end, built a series of prototypes culminating in what I call the Oculus Rift, which was a wide field of view, lightweight, low-cost head-mounted display that had a few really key design elements, but probably the most important was deciding that I could build a system where the optics only did what only optics could do. In other words, I didn't worry about geometric distortion, didn't worry about chromatic aberration. Those were things that could be corrected in a shader on a graphics card, and that's free except for the slight performance hit. And so in a world where graphics cards are extraordinarily powerful, and you can just take a few percent performance hit to correct all those optical aberrations, makes a lot more sense to just do that on the GPU than spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars building optics that correct those aberrations, you know, not just at a cost of money, but also of weight and bulk. And that was not a brand new idea. Other headsets had done that in the past, but it was, I think, the right time for that idea. You know, NASA had had this idea working with leap optics literally decades earlier. And if you read the literature, they talked about how they didn't even run the distortion correction because it was too much of a computational hit. And, you know, it would take them like half of their computational power just to do the geometric distortion correction alone. And so I happened to live in the right time, in the right place where that idea could come back to the future and make a difference. So that's kind of how I got started in VR. It wasn't because I thought it was going to be a great way to make money. It wasn't because I thought it was going to be a great way to raise money. It's because it was the coolest thing that I could work on as a hobby. And then it turned out to be a good way to make money too.
[00:13:50.133] Kent Bye: Yeah, we're, we're coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the DK one, which was released at the end of March of 2013, you know, after the Kickstarter. And I feel like there is a way in which that some of your early visions of the Oculus Rift were kind of like this open source project that you were going to get this out there. And there was that ethos of. being able to really let a thousand flowers bloom with getting the technology into the hands of developers to be able to actually create the content that was going to drive the ecosystem. And so that's something that I think was unique to the affordances of having cheap phone displays and optics. It can't necessarily do the same thing with AR, but with VR, it was like the right place in the right time to have this completely new next paradigm computing technology into the hands of developers. And I feel like that was such a fertile time of really bootstrapping the industry. And as we're Coming up on that 10 year anniversary, I'd love to hear some of your reflections of that moment in time of getting this into the hands of developers to then see what the potentials could actually be.
[00:14:52.135] Palmer Luckey: Well, I mean, you hit the nail on the head. The thing that was different about the Rift is that it was able to get into the hands of thousands of people and let them actually try to make VR stuff. And VR headsets have obviously existed before then. They cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. And then even more than the cost, as a developer, it was expensive to get your hands on, but there's no audience. And so with no audience, there's very little incentive to build things. But the real problem, even beyond that, was that prior to Oculus, Building virtual reality software required that anyone in building VR software had a deep understanding of every part of the technical chain. So you had to integrate a head tracker. So you had to select a head tracker and then integrate it and design your game around the limitations of it. Then you had to integrate into the headset. Every headset had different schemes for feeding it 3D graphics. Some had partial overlap. Some had non-partial overlap. Some of them required a divergent view frustum. So there were all of these things where you had to deeply understand the optical architecture, the tracking architecture, the rendering architecture. You had to deeply understand how to do low latency rendering. Because the engines at the time, the idea of these kind of open 3D game engines was also relatively new. People had obviously been modding old games. For example, the Quake mod community was so big. The way you could build things was modding something else rather than necessarily licensing an engine and doing it from scratch yourself. But the engines that you could use, like Unity and Unreal, were not designed for low latency rendering. And so you could only do that if you deeply understood how to hack them and grind them and cut them into something that was better for VR. And there were labs that were doing this. But again, everyone working on the project had to have a deep understanding. What Oculus did is upend that. We didn't just build a cheap headset. That was really important, but a lot of people missed that probably the most important thing we did is build an SDK that made it really easy for someone with zero prior VR experience to build a virtual reality application or game. You could have someone who had been building Unity software and they could port their game, maybe not well, maybe the UI didn't work, maybe the locomotion made you sick, but they could get their game that already existed running in VR literally in a matter of an hour. And we did the work with Unity and with Unreal to get our plugin integrated into the engine. When you built for the Oculus Rift, it was doing a lot of hacks to get the latency down. It was making sure that all the rendering was done being perfectly correctly. You didn't have to worry about the tracking because that just automatically worked. And so that was actually probably the more important thing that we did to really open up VR to developers was make it so that you could be a VR developer without deeply understanding every element of virtual reality. So you could focus on, you know, the physiological impacts of your locomotion scheme or on how cool your user interface was. And that's where I think most developers want to be. They don't want to be VR technology developers. They want to be game developers.
[00:17:40.897] Kent Bye: And what was that moment like for you as you started to see some of these experiences coming in? And I'm sure you were working with a lot of technology companies that were starting to do prototypes. And, you know, what was it like for you to be experiencing some of these immersive experiences that I guess is, going back into spending some time at USCICT, going to the IEEE VR conference and hearing about how you felt like in some ways the academic community wasn't necessarily like pushing the edge for what type of experiences that you wanted to have. And this was a time period when you were actually able to see the type of interactive or immersive gaming experiences that you were actually wanting to experience.
[00:18:18.479] Palmer Luckey: for sure. I mean, it was, it was a heavy time because on the one hand, there was the reaction to, I mean, we sold 7,400 dev kits on Kickstarter and then about 55 or 60,000 DK ones on our website after that. And then in the end, I think we sold about 250,000 DK twos. And so you had a huge number of indie developers who are building things. And a lot of them were bizarre things that you would never see from a major studio. And that was really cool to see. But if I could be totally honest, the things that I was most excited about at the time was the major game developers that were getting into VR. This was a time when I think almost every major game developer was either working on a VR game publicly, or they were figuring out how they could make a VR game privately. And so I was on the side where I got to talk to them about this. And a lot of what I did in the early days was, you know, this is the less public side, but you, you remember I was publicly out there selling VR, but I was also doing the same thing in a business, kind of a business development role where I was going to the game studios and trying to convince the executives, sometimes their boards of directors, their own investors. And I was telling them that VR was the future. They really needed to get on this. They were going to miss the boat. it felt like we were really part of a movement to do something that was different. And if I can frame this, because there's a lot of people listening who maybe forgotten some of the context. When the Oculus Rift Kickstarter launched, we were at the end of a console generation, right? They hadn't announced the PlayStation 4, they hadn't announced the Xbox One. And so we were at the end of not just a console generation, but we were at the end of the longest console generation there had ever been. And there wasn't any announcement of a new one yet. And it felt so stale for the game industry. Every game that came out looked just like every game that had come out before it. You weren't even seeing the new gimmicks like, you know, let's say Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution, where you had cool new peripheral hardware. Like, the gimmicks were over, the new things were over, the graphic improvements were over. It was just a steady state of the same schlott coming out. And I think that that was one of the other reasons Oculus was so successful, totally separate from it being the right time for VR. It was the right time for the games industry to get excited about something new. And VR, I think, filled that hole. That's also, I think, why OUYA, which you might remember, I think that's why they did so well on Kickstarter. I think if they had come out a year later, after the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 had been announced, after you had a bunch of new next-gen hardware coming out, I'm not convinced that either of us would have done nearly as well. But I guess what I'm getting at is people were hungry for a change. The gamers were hungry for a change, the developers were hungry for a change, and the game publishers were hungry for a change. And Oculus looked like a pretty reasonable bet as to the future of games.
[00:21:00.112] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to do a couple of looking back and even before you got acquired by Facebook and some of the historical elements, and eventually I want to get into what you're doing now with Andrew and how the arts continue in part. But if we go back, you know, one of the things that I remember just in talking to Nani de la Pena at the first Silicon Valley virtual rally conference. So take me back to Sundance 2012 when you were at USC ICT and doing some early riff prototypes and you actually were showing some very early prototypes of some of the things that you were building way before you had done the Kickstarter later that year in August of 2012. So take me back to that, going out to show hunger in LA with Nani de la Pena at Sundance of 2012.
[00:21:43.961] Palmer Luckey: At the time, I was working at the ICT Mixed Reality Lab, and I actually had the pleasure of working on a variety of different student projects. There were a bunch of things going on that were being incubated there that ended up actually going places, and of course, some that just never went anywhere at all. So, you know, Hunger in Los Angeles was Nani's project that she was working on. There was another project called Shade that Julie Griffo was working on. They were also using some of my prototype headsets. And then actually there was, oh shoot, what was it being called at the time? It's just changed names a few times. They were publicly Project Holodeck. But prior to that, these were some of the people who built Tails from the Minus Lab. And then, oh man, what was it called? Was it called Wild Skies? It was a steampunk VR game. Anyway, that's what's actually Servios now. So Servios was done by Nate Berba and James Iliff. And they were also working in the ICT lab, and they were also using my headsets for their project. And it was interesting because for all of these, Several of them had the choice of using an existing head-mounted display that cost about $30,000 or $40,000, or these prototypes that I had built that were based on some of the designs that I had done prior to and during my time at ICT. And they were willingly choosing to use these prototypes that only cost a few hundred dollars to make. And that was a pretty interesting observation for me at the time, to have these people who were among probably the best VR developers in the world at the time. It was a small community, but definitely among the best. that they were more interested in my thing than the really expensive stuff was pretty cool. As far as Sundance, that was an interesting experience because the people at Sundance, I think, are very, very focused on film as a media. We were in the New Frontiers section of Sundance. It's where you put all the weird interactive art stuff. They had a pile of broken computer parts with a CRT in the middle of it, playing a video of a guy breaking up the computer. It's like an art installation piece. You had all these film people there that appreciate that. And what was interesting about their reaction to using Hunger in LA and on the VR side, is that these are people who I think either didn't like video games, or at the very least didn't care about video games, but they came away moved from that experience in a way that I think would not have happened had it not been that one-to-one experience of doing it in virtual reality. If you're a gamer, you build up all these layers of abstraction in your brain, where you're using a keyboard, you're using a mouse, you've got your screen, but it feels like you're really there in the world. When you've done that for hundreds or thousands of hours, that's how your brain perceives it. But if you're just a normie and you're out in the world just doing your normie things, you don't have those layers of abstraction built up. I felt like VR was something that all of a sudden had these people who didn't care about games caring about something that was very akin to a game, that they wouldn't have cared about through traditional displays, through traditional interfaces. These were not my people. They're not gamers. They weren't the people that I was building for. But I think that stuck with me for a long time, because that was a case where I got exposed to people who were not my people at all, and I saw that it was powerful even to them. I knew then that VR could be something that Everyone was going to be moved by not just something for the hardcore techno head gamer nerds.
[00:24:58.869] Kent Bye: Yeah, I wanted to have you maybe reflect on your time at USCICT, because I know you were working on Brave Minds, Skip Rozo, and post-traumatic stress disorder treatments. But also, I went to the IEEE VR conference in 2015. So this was after the Rift had been out for a while. And at that point, the Oculus had been awarded with an award for best technology. And there was a bit of a rift within the academic community at that point. just sort of like whispering campaigns about like whether or not people from the academic community perhaps not being given their due. When I look at the press at the time, there was like this, you know, Palmer Luckey, the wonder kid who created VR out of nothing. And I think the academic community was like, wait, we've been working on this for decades and for a long, long time. And so I think part of the disrupt that was happening at that moment was the way that the story was being told in the media, you know, cast as out of nowhere, but yet this was coming from a long time that the academic community had continued to make this monotonic growth of VR for a long time. So I know within the book of History of the Future, it talks a little bit about Mark Bolas and some of the contracts that you had signed with him. And so Yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more of how you make sense of your time at USC ICT and this disconnect between the academic progress that had been happening that you were building upon, but yet how you were able to move it into the industry in a way that was able to do stuff that the academic community was not able to do due to their own institutional biases for how they need to do research, but not necessarily take the risks that you took in order to actually turn it into a business.
[00:26:34.185] Palmer Luckey: I mean, that was kind of an interesting thing to go through because there were people that were unhappy about it. But I think that most of that unhappiness, you know, you mentioned it was in 2015, you'll notice it wasn't in 2013 or even the earlier parts of 2014. I mean, I, for example, uh, we were giving early DK one prototypes to the mixed reality lab before they even came out to the people who had ordered them on Kickstarter. Like they were one of our close partners where we were still giving stuff out. We had a really good relationship. I think that the thing that really changed all of the dynamics was the Facebook acquisition. It's one thing when you've got a company that's out there and they're doing stuff. Clearly, they're bringing more money and more funding and more attention to the VR industry, even on the academic side, than has ever existed in history. And I think everyone really liked that. But I think as soon as there started to be a handful of people, and Oculus was one of the examples, but even on the PlayStation VR side, there was some similar controversy where PlayStation Santa Monica was also doing a lot of the PlayStation VR work. And they pulled a lot of people out of academia. And there were similar things, people complaining in academia saying, oh, they're just hiring our people and using it to go out and make money. And they're not actually pushing the state of the art forward. And I think it was because money started changing hands. And that changes the way that people feel about these things. I think one of the other factors that was at play, which was I think especially true for Oculus, is a lot of people just didn't have the full picture or had a picture where they heard from somebody that they would trust that things came from a place that they didn't. I mean, Ken Perlman, he has a really, really cool blog that I follow and was following at the time. And he had written a story where he says, oh yeah, the Oculus Rift is actually a spin-out of this project that was done at USC, the socket head-mounted display. And really, it's just that, and then commercialized, and they made all this money off this academic invention. And I actually had to reach out to him and say, hey, Ken, just so you know, the Socket HMD, it's not the predecessor of the Rift. It's actually a copy of the prototypes that I made before I ever worked at USC. So literally, when I say a copy, I don't mean in a disparaging way. It was an open source thing. We were posting it all on the MTBS 3D forums. But like literally the socket was using the exact same display from the exact same company with the same driver control hardware and the same lenses that I had been building head-mounted displays out of before I ever talked to ICT, worked at ICT. The first thing I did actually before working at ICT was reach out after seeing a project they did. with two iPhones that were being used with LeapOptics. And each of those iPhones was rendering one eye's image, one on the left, one on the right. But the first thing I did was reach out and say, hey, you guys should really use one phone and be rendering to one of these BOE Hydus 5.6 inch 1280 by 800 displays, because then you won't have synchronization problems. You'll have a much easier time on the screen tearing matching side. So I went there and built things like that while I was there. But there was this interesting perception, even with very intelligent people like Ken, that the Oculus was kind of the thing that came out of the academic community. The academia invented it and we commercialized it. And there wasn't a recognition that actually you had the academia track that was happening separately. There was a hobbyist track that had existed before that, where you had people sharing things online and posting things and, you know, building off each other's work. And that was separate from academia. it was a lot closer to the work I had done with things like mod retro, where we were a portabilization for a modifying old game consoles. And so I think that was a big part of the tension is a lot of the blame came from, Oh, these guys, they came out of the commercial world that are just, you know, they stole all our stuff and are making money off of it. The thing that's more true is you had this parallel community, parallel to academia. And that's actually where a lot of the stuff that's existing today came out of, at least in my opinion.
[00:30:16.240] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I'd love to get some of your take on the other opportunities you had. I mean, I think it was maybe in the future that you had the opportunity to potentially go work for Sony to work on the PSVR. And then there's Valve that had also been working on stuff. I know Jerry Ellsworth and other folks there had a whole VR. So there's a bit of a collaboration with Valve that was happening. And then once the acquisition happens, then I think there was some rifts that happened between Valve and Oculus. Obviously, they went off to eventually collaborate with HTC and build the Vive. But I'm not sure if Valve would have gone forward with the Vive had there been no acquisition, if it would have continued been this like open source utopia of open sharing. There seemed to be a lot of open sharing that was driving the innovation and the back and forth between what was happening with Valve and Oculus. But I think there's a lot of that history that hasn't necessarily been fully told, I think in a large part because a lot of the folks at Valve are just a lot more secretive or private about a lot of those different dynamics. But I'd love to hear just at least from your take, this kind of symbiotic relationship that then after the acquisition seemed to, I don't know, I'd love to just hear how you think of what that was and then what it turned into.
[00:31:26.853] Palmer Luckey: I'll say right off the bat, I don't think I ever had an opportunity to work at Valve. The closest that I ever got to that was prior to starting Oculus. Michael Abrash posted on the Valve blog that they were looking to hire people to work on AR and VR systems. You could probably dig up the blog post if you looked. And I actually applied almost immediately and said, Hey, you know, here's my background. Here's the stuff that I've built. And Michael Abrash actually personally got back to me and he said, hi, Palmer, you know, at valve, we don't have managers and you can do whatever you want. And so we're looking for people who have a demonstrated history of self-directed work on things that come to fruition and, you know, no, no offense to you, but you know, you don't have that. You're just, you're too young. It hasn't happened for you yet. So that was actually the closest I ever got working about was getting rejected to work on their AR VR team prior to Oculus. And this was, I think this was very early on, you know, this is when they were just starting to explore, you know, what would a heads up display for everyday life look like? Is it AR or VR? They were pursuing both. The Sony thing was interesting. I got in touch with Sony actually through, was it? Yeah, it was through John Carmack. So John basically told the Sony guys, Hey, you guys need to talk to Palmer. He's got this really interesting prototype. Check it out. They ended up checking up the prototype that I had lent to John. And I ended up meeting with them. We talked a few times and I won't get into the details, but you know, the, the, I guess what's publicly known is they made an offer to me to open up a new lab at PlayStation division, Santa Monica and run a VR research lab. That was very tempting because I was a teenager being offered the chance to run a research lab for PlayStation. I don't want to get too much into the console wars, but I've always been a Nintendo guy, but between Xbox and PlayStation, I've always been on the PlayStation side. So that was really attractive to me. And then I ended up turning it down because I decided I was going to just try to do this Oculus thing on my own. Figured I had a real shot to make this happen and didn't necessarily want to turn into this closed source console ecosystem type thing when there wasn't anything on the PC gaming side, which is what I was really excited about. And then they came back and made an even better offer. And that was harder to turn down, but I did turn it down in the end. But the flip side of that is we had a great relationship. And that continued from then all the way to literally today. We stayed in touch. We often showed each other prototypes. And getting what you talked about, it was a collaborative kind of open thing where there was a lot of give and a lot of take. And it was everybody sharing. I mean, between Valve and Sony and us, We would show each other early prototypes. We'd show each other early game demonstrations. We were giving advice back and forth on optical systems, on ergonomic systems. Actually, all the early Valve prototypes they made internally were made using DK1 microfiber foam that we used for the DK1s. I went to our factory and got a bunch of rolls of foam and mailed it over to Valve so that they could cut it out themselves and use it for their head-mounted displays. It was that type of collaborative relationship. I think what changed that was, well, first of all, I'd say on the Sony side, things never really changed. Sony felt like both of us being successful was going to be good, and they understand there was a division where they were never going to be successful on the PC side, because that isn't the market they wanted. They wanted to build an accessory for PlayStation to sell more PlayStations. And then us vice versa, we knew we weren't going to be on PlayStation. And so there was not really any kind of tension there. And so even after the Facebook acquisition, things actually made a very, very friendly. I mean, the day the Facebook announcement was made, I was with the Sony guys trying some of their latest project Morpheus prototypes and some unreleased titles, and nobody had any, any negative emotions about it. We were all excited. Valve was a different situation. Because I think there was this tension that was born less out of the, well, how would I say this? The tension was born out of differences in belief as to the credibility of our fundamental business plan. So when we were an independent company, people often, there's this narrative that goes around where it's like, oh, Oculus was going to build the hardware and Valve was supposed to build the software and the game store. And that's actually not how it ever was. It was very, very clear from the very beginning that Oculus was going to have to build content that we would fund ourselves, that we would pay for ourselves, that we were going to have to run a store. I mean, you know, we started Oculus share almost immediately because of this. And when we announced Oculus share, you can go back and read the announcement. We said, Hey, Oculus share, it's all free for now. While we're in this development phase, we don't want to basically turn it commercial before we're even selling commercial headsets. You know, we wanted to keep it free while dev kits were out there to promote that spirit of collaboration. but we said, once we released the consumer product, Oculus share will transition to being a virtual reality game store and not just a virtual reality game store, the only game store that is dedicated exclusively to virtual reality rather than it just being an afterthought. And so this was always part of our business model. Always what we talked about to investors, it wasn't a secret valve knew it, but valve didn't have any confidence. We would actually pull it off internally. They were like, Yeah, the Oculus guys are going to try to do their own store, but at the end of the day, we're Valve, we're Steam, everyone uses us, everyone trusts us, we have everyone's payment information, and I think there was a belief that we would not actually be able to compete with them. Maybe we would have a couple exclusive titles that we developed internally that we didn't want to give them 30% on, but there was a belief that all third-party content realistically was going to go through Steam. And they also knew that we ideologically had a strong belief that the Rift needed to remain open to other stores. They knew that we strongly believed that. They knew that we were going to leave it open to Steam. And they believed that as a result, they were going to make all the money off VR software. I think that was what was driving their spirit of collaboration a lot. Now, after Facebook bought us, a lot of people think that this means Facebook shut down the collaboration and the communication. That actually isn't what happened. We were in a position where we're still talking to Sony. We're still talking to everybody else. And we were happy to keep talking to valve. But what happened is I think valve made, they, they had a different judgment. They looked at the fact that we now had literally billions of dollars in resources. Mark Zuckerberg came out immediately and said, we will be dedicating billions of dollars to this over the next five years, right? When this was announced. So that was publicly known. And they said, oh shoot, they actually do have a chance to seriously compete with Steam. We are not necessarily going to be able to just coast on everything we've built and rest on our laurels and build a bunch of stuff. And to finally come back to what you had said, I've been rambling for a while, but I think that's not only why they built why they went to go build the Vive. But I think also that's why Steam all of a sudden started to really seriously invest in having a VR user interface into actually having a VR home. Before it was kind of this thing, it didn't matter to Valve if VR succeeded or failed. They were a money printing business. If VR went well, they were going to make money off of it. If it didn't, Whatever, that's fine. For Oculus, it was existential. If we didn't make VR happen, we were going to die. And so I think the real thing that changed at the end of the day was a realization that we had a, if not guaranteed shot, a legitimate shot at displacing Steam as the dominant store in VR and maybe even games in general. Imagine if VR had taken off much faster than it has. We look at it now and we realize it's still just a growing niche, but what if it had taken it off? What if there were 80 million Oculus Rifts that were sold and it outsold the Xbox and it outsold PlayStation and it was the new way things were done? If Facebook owned that and bought a bunch of exclusive development in-house and externally, Valve knew that was not necessarily going to be a great thing.
[00:39:04.428] Kent Bye: Yeah, and I could see that how within Valve with SteamVR, it was made an effort to make it compatible with the Rift, but there wasn't always the way to make the Rift compatible with the Steam Store. So I know that a lot of the stuff that you were working on was trying to make... Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
[00:39:18.306] Palmer Luckey: So I got to correct that. That's never been the case. The Rift has always been very compatible with the Steam Store. I think what you're thinking about is controversy where people with an HTC Vive did not necessarily have access to the Oculus Store. The Rift always, it's never even hinted that it would be locked down and not allowed access to Steam. And then this is a common thing that people in the game community do, like, oh, the Rift is a walled garden. They say, no, no, no, no. Even if you are as uncharitable to Oculus as possible, the Rift has always worked with Steam. And there's never been a hint that it might not. what has been arguably a walled garden would be the Oculus store itself, which only supported Oculus made hardware and then partners that we had, like Samsung with gear VR. And there was a lot of controversy over that, but anyway, sorry to jump on you, but it's a sore point for me.
[00:40:06.982] Kent Bye: I was thinking around Revive and I know in the history of the future I think you were, were you working on Revive or trying to promote Revive in terms of making it accessible?
[00:40:15.909] Palmer Luckey: Or at what point were you officially or unofficially wanting to- Well for people who are listening, because Revive wasn't about Steam content on the Rift. The Rift just officially supported Steam. It just did. Revive was a tool that allowed you to play Oculus store content on an HTC Vive. And our store at the time did not officially support the HTC Vive. And there were a bunch of specific things that went down that unfortunately made that a much harder thing for people to fully understand. For example, people will point to the time that Oculus updated our software in a way that broke Revive and made it so that it didn't work. The thing that you have to remember is what had happened is we developed our store so that there was a bunch of bundled content that came with the Oculus Rift. So one of the games was Lucky's Tale. Another was Eve Valkyrie. And the way that it did this was looking at the hardware ID. And if you're using a DK2, for example, plugged into the Oculus Store, which, by the way, still works today. But if you were using a DK2 that was plugged into the store, you would have to buy Eve Valkyrie or Lucky's Tale, and then a handful of other content If you plug in an Oculus Rift CV1, the consumer version, it used that hardware ID to unlock that content into the Oculus account that you had created and was basically used as the entitlement system. Now, people could say, oh, well, you could have designed this in a different way and sent out redemption codes and done all that. Sure, we could have, but that wasn't a priority for us. We were trying to just get this thing launched and do something that made sense. And if you're thinking about us, it does make sense. The problem is that Revive made their piece of software spoof the Oculus software and report that it was an Oculus Rift CV1 that had been connected, thus triggering the entitlement check, thus adding the free content to their account and making it so that we were actually having to pay out to developers some of them. Some of them there was a basically per download fee where every Oculus Rift user led to another payment. So we were actually directly paying developers in some cases for software that was being downloaded for free by HTC Vive users using Revive to break our entitlement system by pretending to be an Oculus Rift. And then the worst part is there were actually a handful of developers that they were not getting paid, that their contract with us was not such that they got paid for each additional user. They just got paid a flat rate. And so they were complaining to us and saying, hey, this is crazy because you have all these revive users. And there were, at the very least, tens of thousands of them at one point. And you have tens of thousands of people that are downloading my game, playing it for free. I'm not getting anything out of it. And these were people who were negotiating with HTC to have publishing deals with Viveport. And HTC saying, well, why would we do that when everyone is just using Revive to play your game for free from the Oculus store? And so it was actually a lot more complicated than people thought, where they thought that what we did was look at Revive and say, oh my God, we can't let people play and buy games from the Oculus store on the Vive. In reality, what happened is the software came out in a way where it was by any reasonable definition, just piracy. And we had to then change the software to update, to break that. And it led to everyone thinking that we meant that we just hated the idea of them buying our software. Now there's a separate debate as to why we didn't support the HTC Vive natively. I mean, this is a long story and I've talked about this before, I think might even have been covered in Blake's book to some degree. But there was an internal effort for the Oculus Store to support the HTC Vive. The problem is that HTC didn't even have control of their own hardware ecosystem, given that so much of it, like the Lighthouse drivers were built by Valve. HTC didn't control them. They could not actually give away any way to interface directly to the headset. And so we had launched a bunch of things like direct mode, which allowed us to hugely reduce latency. We had all of these various time warp and space warp schemes, some of which were already released, some of which were coming up. But we were being told, hey, guys, the only way you can hook into the Vive is by going through OpenVR, which was Valve's driver for HTC's headset. But by going through that driver, you could not apply things like time warp and space warp on top of their existing thing. You had to be in at a lower level than that. So we actually had many discussions with HTC saying, listen, if you can get us native access to your hardware, we'll support it. But if we can't get native access, what we can't do, like the last thing we can do is support your headset in a way where it's going to be a worse experience than all the other users. You're going to get much lower performance, and it's going to be totally dependent on the SDK of a competitor who clearly is pretty pissed at us. We would have basically been saying, it would have been crazy for us to go out and sell hundreds of dollars of content to people and be on the hook for giving them customer support and driver updates and all kinds of support and know that their quality of experience was not dependent on us, but instead on Valve. What happens if SteamVR did change in a way where the API broke our support and now there's people who have dozens of games where our games don't work with their headset anymore? Are we going to have to issue refunds for that? Are those developers going to have to just lose all that money? Do they have to go back and re-add support for a totally new API years after the fact? What if the studio doesn't exist anymore? These are the things that I think enthusiasts are lucky enough to not have to think about. But when you are running a business, you have to think about them especially, and not to disparage the Europeans here, but European consumer protection laws are extraordinarily strong and powerful in terms of getting refunds when things stop working, not meeting up to various promises around functionality performance. And so there were actually a lot of issues where I'd say if there were no laws and no regulations, we might have made a different decision. But we were looking at a lot of European Union rules around consumer protection and realizing we could easily end up in a situation where developers were getting screwed out of millions of dollars. And we would either have to just bail them out and take the PR hit or deal with actual lawsuits in the European Union. So anyway, it's a really long thing. And I'll close with one last thing. I mentioned OpenVR. It's worth noting that Valve did a excellent PR campaign here. They said, oh, we're launching OpenVR. It's an OpenVR driver, and anybody can support it. But what they meant by that is anyone can support it as long as they work with us and as long as we give them access to it. Because OpenVR is not open source. It was not open source. It has never been open source. And actually, they originally said, yeah, OpenVR allows you to use VR headsets with our driver without using Steam. But that was never true either, because in order to use OpenVR, you had to download the SteamVR runtime from Steam and then run the Steam runtime. So it was this tricky thing where they had this thing called OpenVR. People say, well, why don't you just make the Oculus Rift use OpenVR? And we say, well, separate from all the performance issues, RSDK was better, by the way. It was getting much better performance at the time. SteamVR was kind of a mess early on. But even if you ignore that, I was like, guys, how can we build our headset on top of a driver that we don't even have the source code to that's controlled by a competitor? That's, that's crazy. We can't build our games around an open VR SDK. Anyway, we've gotten pretty technical here, but it's all, it's all coming flooding back to me. Some of these things I haven't had to think about for God, like six or seven years.
[00:47:14.393] Kent Bye: That's a lot of great context that I think it's a lot more complicated at the surface and OpenXR is now there.
[00:47:19.516] Palmer Luckey: And that's the thing. And not only is it there, I got to jump in again. Oculus was the foundation of OpenXR. We were the ones that pushed it from the beginning. And we said this at the time, people would shit on us and say, why don't you support OpenVR? We say, because it's not open and it's bad. Like it's not an industry standard. It can't work on game consoles. It is closed source despite being called open. So we always said, listen, we want to have an open API that supports us and PlayStation and HTC. We want there to be a cross-platform API that all this stuff supports. But it has to actually be open. It has to actually be not controlled by the dominant monopoly in PC gaming. Nobody's going to let one company dominate it, not Oculus and not Valve. And so actually, we were the ones who were pushing OpenXR from the very beginning. We were the one that were working with Chronos Group from the very, very beginning. In fact, the first versions of OpenXR were based on our SDK, because we just contributed all that code for free and said, yeah, you can build on top of this. And that was something that, notably, Valve was not willing to do at the time. And remember, Valve was just doing, I don't think they're evil. They were just doing what made sense for them. OpenXR was not good for them either. So they were out there, their pitch was to game developers, hey, don't support the Oculus SDK. Instead, only use OpenVR, which natively supports the HTC Vive and also wraps the Oculus SDK. So they had a strong incentive to make game developers do that. They didn't want OpenXR to be the thing that took over. Anyway, but you're right, OpenXR exists now. I think things are in a much better place. It's much easier to do cross-platform support.
[00:48:59.612] Kent Bye: Yeah, well, thanks for all that additional context. And I did want to ask because you mentioned at the top that you were fired from Facebook and Blake Harris has history from the future, which I feel like is probably the closest accounting of all the inner details. The problem with that is that Blake's method is that it's fictionalized in the sense that he's constructing conversations. So there's not a really good sense of what actually happened and what is sourced from reality. It's kind of like a compendium that's trying to tell a narrative and a story, but in terms of a historical document, it's tricky. So what can you say about why you were fired from Facebook?
[00:49:37.133] Palmer Luckey: Well, I mean, the primary thing to remember is California is an at-will employment state. And so you can, unlike some states and some countries, let somebody go for no reason at all. And that's a key thing legally, because if you're in a place where you have to justify why you're firing somebody, then you actually have to show documentation as to why. And that becomes very difficult when someone is actually being fired for reasons absent any real reasons, or at least legally allowed reasons. For example, in California, you cannot fire somebody for their political views. That's not the case in most states, but it is in California. But because California's an at-will employment state, you can do things like say, you know what, we just decided we don't want you employed here anymore. And it's really that simple. We're terminating you without any reason whatsoever. And at the end of the day, that's the official reasoning for why I was fired. Facebook did an internal investigation, and I've talked about this publicly. Facebook did an internal investigation, and even their own internal investigation, where they were highly incentivized to find some reason to fire me, concluded I had never violated any Facebook policies whatsoever. So, in the end, I ended up getting fired. The official reason, and I'm happy to say this, because I don't want people thinking there's a document out there that says, hey, you're actually being fired because you mistreated someone or because you lied to someone. At the end of the day, the reason they fired me, officially speaking, is no reason at all. We just decided we don't want you employed here anymore. Now, for anyone who's actually followed how that all went down, it's ludicrous and totally unbelievable. There's absolutely no way that that's the reason that I was fired. Actually, the crazy thing is, companies have to say things that aren't true. So I can't really begrudge them this. A company's never going to say, yeah, we violated a lot of state and federal laws, but we're really sorry about it. So if they have to say the sky is green, they're going to say that the sky is green, even if everyone watching knows that has no credibility. So Facebook's position has not been, I guess, meta now. The position was not that I was not fired for my politics. Their position has been, not only was he not fired for his politics or any of his political activity, in fact, we didn't even consider it. It wasn't even a tiny fraction of our decision. Nobody even thought about it. in the process of firing him, because that's actually the bar in California. If it's even a factor in the termination, the law is being broken. And so people often say, well, how come Facebook says that they didn't fire him for political reasons? Why wouldn't they just admit it? And I have to explain to people, guys, they're never going to say that. It's impossible. No corporation is going to say, yeah, we're blatantly in violation of the law, and that's how it went down. They have to say that they're not, even when it obviously is. And I think that that's kind of what it boils down to. I will say, I've heard you kind of lament a few times about how sad it is that these things tend to get wrapped up in NDAs and how people can't talk about how things really went down and exactly what happened word for word. But I'll be honest, and I think you had said at one point, you wish that the law had protects people from being tied by NDAs. And I'll be honest, I got paid an enormous amount of money to not talk about a lot of things that happened. And I'm actually okay with the law allowing me to enter into that contract. I mean, if the law prohibited me from entering into such an NDA, I would have lost out on a ton of money and I wouldn't have been able to start Anduril nearly as effectively as I had. So at the end of the day, I'm very sad about it. But on the other hand, I was able to voluntarily enter into an agreement that worked out well for me. I'm more interested in making cool things than being a professional victim. That's a somewhat rare mindset, but I've had to get myself used to it.
[00:53:09.798] Kent Bye: Yeah. I appreciate that. You know, there may be elements of the full story that may be lost to this contractual agreement. And as someone who's trying to get the oral history of the movements, the fact of the matter now is that you've moved on and you're starting in some ways you were in a consumer space. Now you're in a, in a space where it's actually probably even more bleeding edge type of stuff that you're able to work on than you were to do in the constraints of a consumer market. I know you've, you're a huge fan of, consumer electronics show, you see the latest tech, but you're also able to be in the level of tech. That's even beyond what is in the consumer level. So I'd love to hear you talk a little bit. I've looked through some of the different Andrew contracts. I saw that there's the air force advanced management system. And some of the blog posts where you talk about using virtual reality as an immersive display to do the type of sensor fusion or command and control. Maybe you could talk a bit about how are you continuing to use VR and the context of defense contracting and Andrew.
[00:54:05.085] Palmer Luckey: One of the things that I like to remind people when they either imply or even outright say, you know, they're like, oh, well, you're not in the VR, you know, you're not really doing VR stuff anymore, but you know, what do you think about this? I have to remind them, guys, I have more people working for me on VR than I did when Oculus was acquired. So, you know, it's all a matter of relativity. We're doing a bunch of really interesting stuff here with immersive displays, and some of it's on the more tactical side, and I can't get into the details today, but think around on-soldier sensor fusion, night vision, thermal vision, integration of tracks from other sensors into your visual feed. Everyone wants the Call of Duty goggles, right? They want to look out into the world and have everything that's dangerous highlighted for them, and everything that's friendly to them clearly visible and usable. But separate from that, we've done a lot on the command and control side. So the concept the military uses generally, it's called JADC2, Joint All Domain Command and Control. So all the different branches, all the different systems across air, land, sea, space, subsea, and cyberspace, all tied into one command and control system that allows you to manage all of these assets. And it's not the way that people would typically imagine it. People imagine that this is more like StarCraft, like where you're command and controlling these huge numbers of things manually, The thing about StarCraft is it's really oriented around actions per minute, APM, as a defining feature of the game. The faster you can move your hands, the more you're going to win. And you actually want to design virtual reality command and control systems for the military in a very different way. If the limiting factor is the person's ability to move their hands and do things, you've designed your UI totally wrong. The ultimate UI for command and control would be basically a rubber stamp. where you've got all these different systems, all these different scenarios, and then artificial intelligence that's analyzing what your enemy is doing, what assets they have, what you have to respond, and then actually just proposing courses of action, saying, hey, we think, for example, these incoming missiles that are going for this carrier group, we'd like to pair that with these effectors that can take them out. Do you think that's a good idea? And then the perfect UI is that rubber stamp. You go, Yes. And that's it. You're just saying yes to stuff over and over again. And then when things are wrong, when there's some reason you wouldn't want to do it, to then be able to go in and manually tell it what to do on a different path. That's kind of how we've been thinking about this. The key is to not make people micromanage the second to second, micro second to microsecond individual platforms, but to be able to do what humans do best, which is think about the strategic implications, the ethical implications, the logistics implications. at a much higher level than that micromanagement level. Now, the benefits of VR as a JADC2 input and output is that you can have people who are not centrally located. In fact, they could even be at the edge of the battlefield, all feeling like they're co-present and managing something together. So for example, we did an exercise, I guess it would have been almost two years ago now, where we had people wearing VR headsets using our command and control tools, and we had one person who was literally in an Air Force aircraft in the air, someone who's on a US Navy ship, a destroyer offshore, and then some people who are all on land, distributed across hundreds of miles, But virtually, they're all sitting at the same table, looking at the same battle playing out, and they're able to share intelligence, talk through why they're doing what they're doing, and basically manage that battle. And that was actually with real live fire weapon systems. So in this particular exercise, you had an aerial sensor that was picking up an incoming missile. That was then passed over to local sensors on the ground, which actually Anduril made, that were tracking that cruise missile. And then it was giving those firing details to the naval destroyer and a prototype hypervelocity gun system on the ground so that they could engage the incoming missiles. So you had all these people from different places in the air, out at sea, on land. They're all just sitting around the same table managing this as if they're all sitting together. a really powerful thing. You've probably heard at some point, heard me talk about how VR is the only thing that has the potential to humanize human communication back to the real face-to-face level. You know, it has the potential to not just be better than text or phone calls or Skype. It has the potential to be as good or better than face-to-face. And if you can bring that face-to-face to an area where typically it's more like three layers of phone calls to get something across, that's a huge deal.
[00:58:24.412] Kent Bye: Yeah, and as we start to wrap up, I'd love to get a few thoughts on- Sorry, I gotta throw one more thing out there.
[00:58:29.416] Palmer Luckey: If you wanna learn more about this stuff and why it's important, there's a great book called The Kill Chain that was written by our Chief Strategy Officer, Chris Brose. At the end of the day, what this all boils down to really is the faster you can make good decisions, the easier it is to win. So you can win with faster airplanes that transit faster or with stealthier aircraft that don't get detected until they get closer to their target. But at the end of the day, the easiest win is just to have a very good command and control system that allows you to make decisions faster than somebody else. It's a lot easier to make a decision in half the time than to fly an airplane twice as fast. And so that's really the power of virtual reality command and control. It's not necessarily that it's even so much better. It's that you can achieve high confidence outcomes much faster than you would otherwise. So it's a really cool scene. I'm very, very blessed to be able to work on it.
[00:59:19.158] Kent Bye: Nice. I know back in 2018, you did a conversation with wired that was published back in September 18th, where you were talking about things like bypassing your peripheral system, your peripheral nervous system and vestibular implants. I know there's control labs, which is a EMG, which is able to isolate the intention to move down to an individual motor neuron, but love to hear some of your thoughts on these next wave of input devices, but also your experiments with things like vestibular implants and. other type of bodily implants for the future of input technologies.
[00:59:51.572] Palmer Luckey: So I'd say there's two sides of this. One is just normal human augmentation. The other is as it pertains to ARBR. So just starting with human augmentation, there's something called nervous transit velocity. It's how fast signals can move down your peripheral nervous system. And as you know, when you stub your toe, it takes longer for your brain to notice than if you have something happen in your hands or actually the lowest latency system in your body is your tongue. Your tongue has got a direct big fat data pipe right to your brain. and you need to do that because I don't know if you've ever thought about how hard it is to chew. Chewing is not an instinct. Your brain is managing it. You bite down, you open up, and you're literally mixing the food around between your teeth with your tongue, and your tongue pulls out just as you chomp down again. It's actually very, very latency dependent. That's one of the reasons we have such a fat pipe right to the tongue. Anyway, by the way, are you familiar with BrainPort? It's a system that uses the tongue at
[01:00:44.021] Kent Bye: Yeah, it's people who were able to transmit vision into their tongue.
[01:00:47.667] Palmer Luckey: Yeah, see through their tongue. And you can learn that using neuroplasticity. And why do they use the tongue? Well, it's high resolution, but more importantly, it's very, very low latency. It's actually one of the best peripheral inputs into the brain that our body has. Anyway, the point is, our nervous system is actually pretty bad. It's very, very slow. There's a lot of delay in it. And then even our perception of reality is mitigated by this. Our perception of reality is actually held back a few hundred milliseconds from when we actually perceive things consciously, because we don't want to live in a body where everything feels like it's delayed. Everything feels instant, but it ain't. And so one of the most interesting things out there as a concept is, what if you can intercept signals where they come from? Imagine if you could have a cuff on your wrist. that detects the signals that are coming off of your fingers. What if I could then put that right into your spinal cord and bypass all the chemical signal transmission that happens in your arm? You could potentially triple your response time simply by having that thing just bypass at the speed of light what normally takes hundreds of milliseconds to run up your arm. I've done a lot of experimentation around that. It's actually super believable stuff. I think the time is going to come where this technology is going to be widespread. It's going to start with people who have paralysis. There's a lot of people where their disability is just a break in the peripheral nervous system. But there's new technology where we can basically take signals from one part of the spinal cord, bypass the break, and then feed those signals around the damage. Those are going to be the early adopters. But eventually, we're all going to be augmented. It's going to be great. OK, then there's as it pertains to AR and VR. And this is a bit controversial. I don't think I've talked about this publicly very much, but I'll talk about it anyway. I think the ultimate augmented reality interface has nothing to do with your eyes. The eyes are actually not a very good way to augment your perception of reality. Our foveal region is very small. We can only receive high detail information in a teeny tiny little region. And if you want to manage like three things at once, it's actually pretty difficult to do that, maybe even impossible. And so a lot of people have been talking about AR as kind of the ultimate way that you're going to augment your view of the world. The way that I actually look at this is I suspect it's going to be closer to proprioception. Are you familiar with proprioception? Yeah. You know, it's your sense of pose, your sense of self. It's one of the very few systems in our body that is not sensitized. That is, like, you don't feel the chair you're sitting on right now, right, until you think about it. And that's because your body sensitizes most of your nervous inputs. But the one input that's always mainlining straight into your brain is your proprioceptive system. Why? Because if it filtered it out, you would just fall straight over. It has to keep it active continuously. And you may have seen systems that people have built around remote-controlled arms, where we've got monkeys and or people using their nerves to connect to arms, where they can actually even feel the things that they're touching, where they're getting pressure sensitivity. Well, that arm doesn't have to be attached to you. It can be on the other side of a room. And that arm has many degrees of freedom, a lot of touch sensors. But what if you could take all that bandwidth and allocate it not to your existing arm or even another arm? What if you could allocate it to your perception of things in the world? What if you could subconsciously, as part of your proprioceptive sense, have a continuous subconscious level perception of where the other people you're traveling with are? How fast your car exactly is going? How many emails are in your email inbox? I think that the future of augmented reality is actually not necessarily going to be visual displays. It's going to be a super pain-in-the-ass neuroplasticity training program, kind of like you go through with a keyboard. Keyboards are superhuman inputs that require literally hundreds of hours of practice to work. but the payoff's worth it. I think the long-term future of AR is all of these systems fed directly into your proprioceptive system, so that you're actually subconsciously, continuously perceiving most of the things you would want to do in AR, just directly in your brain. We'll see if we get there, but some of the things that you can actually do today using just things like vibration bands or BrainPort, honestly. I mean, BrainPort's able to put an entire vision system onto your tongue. It's trivially easy to give it range and type information about things in your environments. And you get all these other benefits too, like how do you represent something coming up behind you in the street on an AR display? Does it flash red and tell you the vector that it's behind you? Wouldn't it be great if you could just subconsciously know that there's something that's gonna run you over because you inherently feel where it is relative to the position of your brain? Anyway, I've been rambling a bit on that, but that's actually where I see the future of all this going, especially when it comes to military applications where augmenting your vision has a lot of downsides.
[01:05:18.264] Kent Bye: So one of the things I'm really curious, and now that you have some distance from Facebook slash Meta, is that we have this ecosystem of VR where to maybe its detriment, we have such a dominant player with Meta and that there hasn't really been a vibrant ecosystem. And maybe there's some various anti-competitive actions along the way that Meta has taken. It's still yet to be prosecuted, but I'd love to hear some of your take of how you see the broader ecosystem of consumer VR right now.
[01:05:45.682] Palmer Luckey: I think things are going to change over the next few months when Apple launches their first headset. Remember, Apple's the most powerful company in the world. They're the largest company in the world that's not a state-owned oil enterprise. When they're going toe-to-toe with Meta, I think that's going to change the dynamic a lot. Right now, Meta clearly is in a pretty dominant position, but they're an underdog compared to Apple. They're literally a tenth of the size. And Apple has some really good people working on some stuff. So I feel like it'll be really interesting to revisit all the arguments that people have around monopolization in the context of a much larger company than going toe-to-toe with meta. If Apple can't break in, that's going to be a pretty fascinating reflection of the environment. That said, I'll admit I have a bit of a different perspective on this than a lot of the typical end users. The FTC has been jumping in and trying to block acquisitions of VR companies by Meta. And on the one hand, I can't really disagree with their argument by the FTC that it's anti-competitive. It's a pretty compelling argument. And so if you're going to have anti-competitive regulation, then it certainly seems like it falls at least close to that. On the flip side, I've seen some pretty negative effects. Like FTC hasn't managed to actually block the acquisition. In fact, it looks like they're going to lose this bid. But TBD, we'll see what really shakes out in the courts in the end after appeals. But the thing that I've seen that probably the average VR user is not aware of is that this has had a really damaging effect on the ability of new VR startups to raise money. Because VR startups are not necessarily all going to be purchased by Meta. They're not all necessarily going to be purchased by Facebook, but they're able to go out there. You're also familiar with the Microsoft acquisition of Activision. Similarly, FTC is coming in and potentially trying to block that. The problem is a lot of new companies in the VR space have gone out to raise money, and investors say, well, gee, before you had all these potential places that you could sell to and eventually pay us back our money. But if the FTC is not going to allow Meta to buy VR startups, well, then you're not going to sell to them. And it could be that you're not even allowed to sell to Apple if Apple ends up in a similar position. And then you can say, oh, well, what if they're bought by another smaller player? Well, the investor says, well, if Facebook's not in the mix to bid up the price, it's less likely that if you can only sell yourself to smaller companies, you're probably not going to be able to sell your company for much money. And so I would say, imagine if this had happened back before the Oculus days. I think it would have been a lot harder for Oculus to raise money. If we went to our investors and said, yeah, so the big three players, the government's not going to let them buy us. So we definitely are not going to have an exit there. I think we probably wouldn't have been able to raise as much money. It's something that I think I probably have a better insight into than a lot of the average VR users, because I talk to a lot of these investors. And I've been told straight up by major investors that they did not invest in specific, very promising VR companies because they think that the company where their tech makes the most sense to land is meta, and they don't think the FTC will allow them to get purchased. Or at least there's enough risk of that that they're not willing to invest. And I think that's probably bad for the VR community in general.
[01:08:48.858] Kent Bye: Hmm. Well, I'm curious, what headsets do you either personally use or headsets that Enduro use within an enterprise context?
[01:08:58.267] Palmer Luckey: So we're mostly an Oculus house, or I guess a meta house. Old habits die hard, and the hardware is really good. And of course, in the early days of Andoril, when we were building stuff on the Oculus SDK, we were building on top of the products that I had helped build. And in fact, a lot of the hardware that was coming out, I knew what was coming out, because I had been helping to build it. Quest was delayed a really, really long time. And Quest 2 was actually already in the works before Quest 1 even shipped. So I was very familiar with what was coming down the pipe, and that's kind of how we ended up there. We're also building some of our own stuff. It's a little bit more specialized. It's not the type of thing that we would ever be able to deploy at a scale of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of units. It makes more sense to let them do that. I'm pretty excited about the stuff Apple has coming out. You know, Apple's stuff is not that far ahead on the engineering side. There's kind of two ways to make VR or AR or whatever you want to call it on the continuum. There's kind of two ways to make the hardware mainstream. One way is with engineering to make it smaller and prettier and eventually you get to a pair of sunglasses, you put it on and it does everything. Alternately, you can take the money that you would have spent doing that and you can just spend it on marketing and make it cool nonetheless. And I think that's the approach Apple's taking. They're going to be paying all the celebrities to wear it. They're going to be paying all the athletes to wear it. And that will make it cool just like that. It doesn't have to be small. It doesn't have to look like normal sunglasses because the big bulky thing that Apple's making, it's going to become cool by being associated with people that people think are cool. And so I think that's something that Apple, like I don't like that strategy. I'm a techno head. I want tech to just get better. But Apple's probably making the right move there. And I'd say if they manage to make their thing cool with the mainstream, there's a chance that we'll have to become an Apple shop just because that's what people want. They want the cool thing.
[01:10:46.743] Kent Bye: One last question that I'm curious about. I've heard you mentioned before that you learned how to fly a helicopter in a simulation before you actually flew. And so what software did you use to learn how to fly a helicopter?
[01:10:57.556] Palmer Luckey: I used a few. I used Microsoft Flight Simulator because that's the one that has by far the most models available. It's the one that has a lot of very, very flight accurate models. But I also did a lot in the DCS helicopter expansion. So I had a lot of fun with that. That, of course, you're only getting to fly one particular helicopter. And it's basically a Huey gunship. But I actually ended up owning one in real life too. So that was a really smooth one-to-one transition, because I already knew how to start it up, how to fly it, how to land it, how to shut it down. This is a whole other topic, so I'll try to move through it quickly. But one thing people don't realize about military training is that the United States military has more casualties in training every year than in all combat combined. Training is actually the thing that kills the most people. And part of that is because we do so much of it and because everyone does it. But if you're going to try to build a technology that saves the lives of people who are in the armed forces, honestly, the most impactful thing is not going to be a thing that makes 1% of combat less, because it takes hundreds of different technologies to keep people in combat from dying. It's very, very hard to do. Whereas with virtual reality training, if you can allow people to do most of the dangerous training that they do in virtual reality, you could potentially eliminate more deaths than if you fully eliminated all combat deaths combined. And I think that's actually a lot more realistic to pull off too. And so, I was able to learn to fly a helicopter when I was definitely way too low-skilled to be safely flying a helicopter. And by the time I was actually in a real one, I was at a pretty high level of skill, and that skill transferred directly over. I would encourage people who are thinking about, if they want to do a VR startup that makes a difference to the military, VR training is a really, really big piece of juicy, low-hanging fruit if you want to save lives.
[01:12:49.282] Kent Bye: Awesome. And the final question that we'll wrap up here with is what do you think the ultimate potential of virtual and augmented reality might be and what it might be able to enable?
[01:12:58.886] Palmer Luckey: You know, I don't think it's changed that much since the early days of Oculus. You know, if you go back and read the first Oculus blog posts from before the Kickstarter, where I talk about the potential to build a world that's parallel to our own and also to augment our own world to be whatever we want it to be or need it to be. That's still the promise of VR. And for almost 10 years, my email signature was, see you in the metaverse. And in fact, you might remember the open letter that I wrote when Facebook acquired us, and it ended, see you in the metaverse. And so it's been really bizarre for me over the last year or two to see all of a sudden, everything's all about the metaverse. The frustrating thing for me is a lot of very smart people, because of all the crazy hype, see it as just a fad. They're like, oh, the metaverse, this idea of a digital parallel world that exists alongside our own, that is seamlessly merged with the real world, and where we're traveling back and forth between the two seamlessly as we live our lives. They think that sounds like a crazy, nutty fad. But that's kind of what I've always believed in. I think John Carmack believed a lot of similar things. Michael Abrash believed a lot of similar things. I believed a lot of similar things. The promise of VR hasn't changed all that much. It's just where we are relative to actually accomplishing that goal. I think the thing that probably frustrates me the most right now is seeing a lot of big companies spend extraordinarily large amounts of money taking baby steps towards that metaverse. And it feels like there's a much faster boost pad they can jump on to get there faster. But I think we will get there eventually. I think that probably Our megacorps are going to spend way too much money getting there. A lot of startups are unfortunately in a crash and burn trying to help us get there faster. In the long run, I think we get there, but it's going to cost more than it should. It's going to take longer than it should. I can only hope that you and I are around long enough to see the point where we can say, this is it. We made it to the ultimate vision of VR.
[01:14:47.808] Kent Bye: Awesome. Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the broader immersive community?
[01:14:53.639] Palmer Luckey: Oh man, you know, I've been thinking I might do a VR party to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the launch of the first Rift. Seems like that would be a pretty cool thing to do, because the biggest problem actually with it is just, it's similar to the attach rate problem of accessories. You know, if you sell a console, only so many people are going to buy an accessory or game. And so the question is, what's the party attach rate for someone who bought a DK1? Well, there's not that many people that bought DK1s, so how many people will show up to the party? I don't know, what do you think?
[01:15:22.788] Kent Bye: I think the incident size is the killer where it gets fragmented into right now only 100 or 150 people or 80 or so. So you end up beginning a fragmented experience to have like a big blowout party like you would in physical reality.
[01:15:34.871] Palmer Luckey: So I'm wondering if we're even going to have enough people to fill an instance. I mean, the reality is there's a lot of people who bought the Oculus Rift DK one, not because they were necessarily lifelong VR enthusiasts. A lot of these people were game developers who were told by their boss, Hey, this might be the future. You're going to explore this. I know a few dozen people, for example, working in Activision, where that's why they have a DK1. And a lot of them are not working on VR today. It's not even necessarily something they're passionate about. It's just a thing they had to do for their job. And so DK2, I feel like actually was a much larger audience. I think that you'd have a mega blowout party because it was kind of quasi-consumer at that point. You had early adopters of gamers. But DK1, I mean, we were so clear with people saying, don't buy this if you're not a game developer. We had a big scary warning when you bought the thing where you had to click a button that not only said, I understand this is a development kit, you got to say, I am a game developer. I am not a gamer and I understand there is no content for sale for this device. And I think that actually scared off a lot of people. I used to have the metrics for that, where people would make it through checkout, get to that box. And luckily, of course, the reason we did that is at the time, we were manufacturing limited. We couldn't make enough headsets. And so we were trying to scare off all of the gamers so that we could keep our limited production capacity available for developers. But yeah, I think the blowout is going to be DK2 10th anniversary, probably 10th anniversary of DK1. I don't know. I bet we can get 100 people to show up. I'm sure yeah, maybe we can make it so that it only supports DK one. That'd be kind of fun. Gotta show up in your in your DK one. We can all have faces that are a few pixels wide. It'll be a little bit last.
[01:17:12.887] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, Palmer, thanks so much for joining me here on the podcast to kind of take a look back, a retrospective look, but also a bit of a look forward for where you see things are at now and where they may go in the future. So thanks again for all you've done to help bring about this VR renaissance within the broader consumer space and wish you the best of luck as you move forward with all the different stuff that you're on the bleeding edge of pushing forward the VR medium in the more defense space. And maybe we'll get to hear more about it at some point, but.
[01:17:38.272] Palmer Luckey: Oh, you will. And thanks for helping get all these voices out there.
[01:17:42.094] Kent Bye: Awesome. Well, thanks again.
[01:17:43.516] Palmer Luckey: Thank you so much. Have a good one.
[01:17:55.422] Kent Bye: Well, I, first of all, I was really surprised to hear that there's actually more people working at Andrew on VR now than there was when he sold Oculus to Facebook in March of 2014. So there's lots of stuff that he can't actually talk about too many details. We talked a little bit about the advanced battle management system that he's working on this command and control, and it's got this social VR component. But it looks like some of these other tactical aspects that he kind of alluded to when we were talking about how to extend your perception and use things that are not just your eyeballs when it talks about your perception, but using these other inputs to be able to have these data pipes into your brain, these bypasses to your autonomous nervous system, but also just generally thinking about this idea of augmenting humans and augmenting perception. that it goes beyond our visual cues, but all these other ways to put data into the body and how that might be useful in these different contexts. And so it sounds like he's working on this real cutting edge sci-fi stuff. And just in general, the consumer VR market is a certain point that you need to have things to be able to be scalable. But at this point of working with the military, he's able to push the cutting edge into this more sci-fi future of what might be possible with these immersive technologies, but in a context that is in this direct military funding. Now, I'm not necessarily a huge fan of how much money the United States pays into all these different defense contracts and everything, but that's kind of back into the history for how VR even came about and how these simulations going back to like the link trainer and fight simulation and military training in general has been a huge catalyst for the funding of virtual reality in the first place. Like it probably wouldn't be at the point that it is. There's a couple of points as he's talking about the history of VR and he's assigning more credit to this hacker community of portabilizing and miniaturizing consoles and the mod retro community and this whole meant to be seen forum where they were hacking together different technologies. And just in the process of talking to different people in the academic community, there's certainly algorithms that were a big part, you know, just say that barrel distortion algorithm to fix what was happening on the software side to just use cheap optics. So, hearing from different academics who had suggested these things, he's attributing more value to this portabilizing and miniaturizing enthusiast community than what was happening from within the context of the academic community. And I think that's generally reflected within the media coverage that was shown, that it was basically kind of erasing the contributions from the academic community. this hyperbolic ways of they were framing the story as this coming out of nowhere without pointing back to this community of academics that have been pushing forward VR for a long, long time. So that's just some of the different perspectives that I have heard of the course of talking to many different people from the academic community. But as he's saying, as money was changing hands, then there's a lot of people who had different thoughts about what that meant and maybe some perceptions or misperceptions around the origins of some of these technologies and whatnot. So, and I did want to actually elaborate on one of the things that Palmer said that I was alluding to that we shouldn't have the legal framework to be able to have NDAs. I don't think I ever necessarily said that it should be illegal per se. I think what Palmer was referring to was when I did this Interview with Blake Harrison in my write-up I say Harris alleges that Lucky was compelled to sign a non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreement with Facebook as part of his departure. If this is true, then Facebook is using its power and authority to suppress aspects of the truth that they want to keep secret. To me, this fosters an unethical relationship to the historical record through compelled suppression of deeper truths. rather than handle difficult truths in a direct, authentic, and embodied way that would encourage retrospective contemplation and self-reflection than Facebook chooses to deny and suppress the truth through tactics of silence, ghosting, and explicit suppression of open dialogue through NDAs and non-disparagement agreements. Now, I don't know if I'd still stand behind the polemic tone of what I'm saying here, but the gist of what I'm trying to say, in essence, is that it's frustrating that some of these companies, whether it's Facebook or Valve, Valve is probably even more of a guilty party of this, of anybody that leaves Valve signing an NDA and forever never being able to talk about anything that happened there. Geri Ellsworth was presented with that opportunity to sign one of those NDAs, and she basically said, no, thank you. Freedom to express the story of what actually happened is more important than taking this small chunk of change Maybe it was more money. She would have signed it. But as somebody who's covering this in the history I just appreciate being able to capture the story and not having some of these NDAs block the ability from people to talk For example, I don't know if John Carmack has signed an NDA that prevents him from ever actually talking about any of the work or any of his perspectives of anything that he ever did at Meta. And Palmer, there's certain things that he can talk about. There's other things that he can't talk about. And so his perspective is that he willingly entered into that agreement because it was a trade-off that he was willing to make because it was on the order of $100 million and that allowed him to start his next thing with Andrew Rill. And for him, he's happy to be able to have that opportunity to sign an NDA. For me, in my perspective, it's just, you know, frustrating as someone who's capturing these different oral histories, that, you know, certain aspects of that story that will never be told because of these NDAs, unless it's under this arrangement that, you know, like Blake Harris had to enter, which is to get access to all this information and try to tell the gist of the story of what happened. But even in Blake's case, as an example, there weren't a lot of active valve employees that were involved with communicating their side of the story. And so you essentially get anybody that was from valve had jumped ship from valve into now working with Oculus. And it's basically the story from Oculus perspective without having a wider comprehensive perspective of what was happening with Valve. So I was very appreciative to get some of that deeper nuance of some of the stories that was happening from Palmer about this relationship between Valve and Oculus, because there was this real collaborative spirit that was happening between Valve and Oculus and with Sony. In History of the Future, Blake Harris talks about how so much of the technologies, like they were literally lending each other different prototypes. So, there's this whole other aspect of the story with Valve and what happened from their perspective and why they decided to get into VR. But yeah, I'm just happy to be able to capture different aspects of that history with this conversation here, given the fact that there may be certain aspects that Palmer's not at liberty to discuss. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast. And if you enjoyed the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and I do rely upon donations from people like yourself in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So you can become a member and donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.