virtual-desktop-cloned-by-facebook
guy-godinOn June 11, 2019, Guy Godin announced on Reddit and on Twitter that “Oculus doesn’t want the SteamVR streaming feature in their store” and that he had been asked by Oculus to remove this wireless streaming feature that he had recently added to his Virtual Desktop application.

Facebook provided a statement to UploadVR and Road to VR saying, “While we don’t comment on the status of specific apps, our Oculus Store application submission system is designed to help ensure that our devices deliver a consistent, comfortable experience to customers. Apps are evaluated on a number of factors including performance, input, and safety with the goal of creating a quality, high-value experience for all VR consumers.”

Oculus’ Jason Rubin tweeted on June 14, 2019 saying, “We asked Virtual Desktop to roll back an update. We found out about the new features through user complaints & it took us a while to get it to work. We accept experiences vary, but this feature compromised comfort, safety, & quality to different levels for different users.”

Godin tells me that you have to have a good enough PC for wireless streaming to work well enough, wired ethernet helps enormously, and sometimes users have to set up a wireless mesh network in your home in order for it to work properly, especially if your PC is in another room.

But what Facebook is saying is that they want to create a “quality, high-value experience for all VR consumers.” Reading between the lines, then it appears as though Facebook is saying that the PC owners with the lowest minimum specification component parts on their PC may get degraded experience of wireless streaming, and that this is what they’re using to justify this feature being removed.

But from talking with Godin, it doesn’t sound like he was provided these minimum specifications, or even provided much more context or details as to why this feature had to be removed otherwise be pulled from the store. His solution was to provide a patch in the Side Quest store that works if someone has bought the full version of Virtual Desktop.

Now that the Oculus Rift has been announced to be discontinued as of Spring of 2021, then Oculus will not have any dedicated PC VR headsets, which will put more emphasis on either using the Oculus Link cable or for Oculus to develop their own wireless streaming solution.

In John Carmack’s Unscripted Live talk at Facebook Connect 1 on September 16th, 2020, he shared more context about internal debates around wireless streaming by saying:

“We still haven’t announced a full wireless connection system for Link. And we have these interminable arguments internally about this — about quality bars. And I keep saying that… I have existing proofs where whenever we argue about this I can say, ‘Right this very minute, someone is using a wireless VR streaming system and getting value from it. You know, it is not as good as being wired. It is not as good as we might hope. It might not meet your personal minimum quality bar, but it is clearly meeting some people’s minimum quality bar and delivering to them because they keep coming back and doing it.’ So I continue to beat that drum where we should have some type of Air Link.”

I talk to Godin about wireless streaming in Virtual Desktop, but also his experience of Facebook wanting to buy him out. After he refused to sell his company, then he claims that Facebook proceeded to clone his basic features in their application “Oculus Desktop,” and Godin shows a screenshot of Oculus UI elements where Oculus Desktop is referred to as “Virtual Desktop”, which has confused users that it’s Godin’s Virtual Desktop application.

BigScreenVR’s Darshan Shankar also pointed out Facebook’s conflict of interest of being both a platform provider as well as an app and experience provider in that sometimes Facebook develops first-party apps and experiences that directly compete with their developer ecosystem. Shankar points out that Facebook has the ability to track what applications are gaining traction and popularity, and then try to either acquire that app or clone those features into their own applications.

Godin and Shankar are two independent VR developers who have reported some level of cloning behaviors from Facebook, and I know there are a number of other VR developers who may be coming forward to tell more of their stories of having Facebook clone their applications.

The Verge’s Adi Robertson has been covering the Anti-Trust hearings against Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and she reported on some emails from Facebook executives talking about how it’s faster to clone competitors than to do their own innovation.

A chain of messages starts with Zuckerberg recounting a meeting with the founders of Chinese social networking app Renren. “In China there is this strong culture of cloning things quickly and building lots of different products,” he wrote. “Seeing all this and the pace that new mobile apps seem to be coming out from other companies makes me think we’re moving very slowly. … I wonder what we could do to move a lot faster.”

The messages were released on Wednesday as part of a House Judiciary Committee probe.

Other employees, some of their names redacted, agreed that “copying is faster than innovating,” even if they worried it would give Facebook a bad reputation in the industry.

Facebook has a long history of cloning apps including Snap and TikTok, and so it’s not too surprising that they would be cloning some of the independent VR developers.

It’s certainly possible that Facebook may have independently been working on a lot of these features in Virtual Desktop and BigScreen, but there may be an emerging pattern of anti-competitive behavior here where Facebook’s desire to have the most popular apps and experiences on their own platform means subtly undermining some of their most successful VR developers within their ecosystem.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

oculus-quest2
The Oculus Quest 2 was announced at Facebook Connect today, and I was able to get early access to it last week to try it out. I wanted to invite Road to VR co-founder Ben Lang to share his impressions, and to unpack some of my experiences as well. Lang sees the initial improvements as an Oculus Quest S, but that over time as more experiences are upgraded from 72Hz to 90Hz and the increased textures take advantage of that additional headroom. We also talk about the lack of competition in the standalone VR headset space, which means that Facebook can push forward their vision of using VR to aggregate more data on our us through our VR activities.

A Facebook account will be required to use the Oculus Quest 2, which means that it’ll be under Facebook’s Data Policy as well as an Oculus Supplemental Data Policy that won’t be released to the public until October 11th. Facebook has not made any representatives available for an interview about any of these privacy policy changes yet during Facebook Connect, and I’m still waiting to hear whether any representatives will be available for interview before or after the new changes are launched on October 11th.

Anyone within the VR community has to negotiate their relationship with Facebook as we move forward. I have a lot of open and unanswered questions about the future of privacy in VR in Facebook’s hands, and so it makes it difficult for me to unconditionally to recommend Oculus hardware. I’m really excited about the potential of VR, and I expect that the Oculus Quest 2 will indeed help VR go to the next level with the price point of $299. The Oculus Quest 2 is by far the best standalone experience out there, and I’m really happy with the ergonomic improvements. But I also have many open questions about the future of VR that’s driven by a business model of surveillance capitalism.

Be sure to check out Ben Lang’s full review of Oculus Quest 2 here.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

information-heath

alex-heathAlex Heath reports on Facebook and their competitors for the subscription-only site The Information, and he’s been able to get some exclusive interviews and do some in-depth reporting on some of Facebook’s VR and AR hardware initiatives. As we’re on the cusp of Facebook Connect on Wednesday, September 16th, there are a lot of questions as to what other companies will be able to compete with Facebook’s current dominance in the consumer VR space, especially when it comes to their standalone VR headset of the Oculus Quest and the leaked videos of the Oculus Quest 2, which are expect to be announced tomorrow at Facebook Connect #`1 (which would have been called Oculus Connect 7 had Facebook not rebranded it).

Apple had an Apple Event on September 15th, 2020, but there wasn’t any XR news announced. Back on November 11, 2019, Heath and his colleagues reported on an internal October 2019 meeting where “Apple executives shared the company’s product roadmap for two augmented reality devices” including “Apple’s headset, code-named N301, will offer a hybrid of AR and VR capabilities” set for release in 2022 as well as Apple’s AR glasses code-named N421 set for release in 2023 that are “meant to be worn all day, and current prototypes look like high-priced sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips, according to a person who has seen them.”

Apple seems to be the only other major tech conglomerate that will actively be battling Facebook in the consumer XR space, but we also talk about the other major players including Microsoft, Google. Qualcomm, Niantic, Amazon, Snap, Valve & HP + Microsoft, HTC, Magic Leap, NReal, and Tilt5.

But there is enough happening with Facebook that Heath can just focus on reporting on all of the many different dimensions of Facebook from their cryptocurrency plans, to their corporate news, as well as some of their XR hardware investments.

We also talk about some of the implications of how Mark Zuckerberg maintains a majority of voting shares to have unilateral control within Facebook, but also generally why Facebook and so many other major tech players expect that VR and AR represent a spatial computing paradigm shift in the next major computing platforms.

There aren’t a lot of other mainstream technology journalists who have been paying much attention to Facebook’s pioneering efforts in VR and AR, but the subscription-only business model of The Information allows him to go beyond the latest transgressions of Facebook’s social media network, such as this latest article from Buzzfeed on Facebook turning a blind eye to global political manipulation or the variety of issues covered in the The Social Dilemma documentary, which was recently released on Netflix on September 9th, 2020.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

venice-vr-expanded-2020

I’m joined by Pola Weiß (Founder, VR Stories / VR Geschichten) & Kathryn Yu (Executive Editor, No Proscenium) to talk about nearly all of the 44 experiences that were a part of the Venice VR Expanded 2020 edition running from September 2 to 12. We focus mainly on projects in the main competition as well as the Biennale College Cinema VR, while briefly mentioning the Out of Competition Best of VR, which are projects that have already been released or have premiered at other festivals.

There’s somewhere between 15-17 hours worth of content where most of it is freely available throughout the course of the festival, and it took each of use nearly a week to navigate different technical difficulties, scheduling live performances, and setting aside enough time to get through the majority of the program. Between us we were able to see all of the experiences, and then unpack and digest them a bit within this critics roundtable discussion.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

https://twitter.com/kentbye/status/1301193379011686400

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

black-rock-city-vr
greg-edwards
In 2014, Greg Edwards took photos of all of the work on the Burning Man Playa, and then set out to create a 1:1 scale 3D model of Black Rock City all in virtual reality (BRCvr). He showed a demo on the Google Cardboard to the Burning Man Board in 2015, but VR was still in the early days of VR and before social VR had been deployed to mobile VR headsets or to 2D clients. But after Burning Man announced on April 10, 2020 that the in-person gathering at Black Rock City was cancelled, but that “We are, however, going to build Black Rock City in The Multiverse. That’s the theme for 2020 so we’re going to lean into it. Who’d have believed it would come true? We look forward to welcoming you to Virtual Black Rock City 2020.”

I had a chance to talk with Edwards to fill in the gaps between his initial prototype of virtual Black Rock City VR from 2015, and how he started playing around with it again after a text from his friend on April 3, 2020 asking what other models they could play around with in AltSpaceVR. Greg’s 1:1 recreation of the Burning Man playa and Black Rock City is simply put one of the most impressive worlds I’ve seen in VR yet. It’s not only a meticulous to-scale recreation of BRC, but he was able to create a toolkit in AltSpaceVR that would allow Burners to create their own world in the months and week before (and actually during) Burn Week. There were somewhere between 80-100 worlds linked from the BRCvr 2020 World event in AltSpace when it finally opened up at around 8:12pm PDT on Sunday, August 30, 2020. And at the time of the recording of this interview on Thursday during Burn Week, there were between 120-200 worlds with the number of people doubling each day.

The Microsoft team at AltSpaceVR has a lot of Burners on staff, and so they’ve been an instrumental technological partner for Greg and the BRCvr team, and this event has been a fusion of the AltSpace community helping the Burning Man community help get ramped up on building worlds and holding events in VR. I hope to catch up with more of these AltSpaceVR community members after Burning Man is over, but it’s been pretty amazing to see the level of participation, creativity, and serendipitous collisions that I’ve been able to have over the past five days of Burning Man. It’s not only a technological achievement to have a world this massive run smoothly on an Oculus Quest, but it’s an accomplishment of the radical self-reliance principle of Burning Man to empower the community of Burners to get ramped on a set of optimized assets from Edwards and the worldbuilding tools from AltSpaceVR to be able to make these spaces for theme camps, party spaces, private rooms, art exhibitions, and landmark staples of the the Burning Man culture.

Edwards says that he’s currently planning on leaving these worlds up throughout the course of the year so that the Burning Man community can have some virtual spaces to continue to gather and connect to each other throughout the course of the year. It’s pretty uncanny timing that the theme of this year’s Burning Man was “The Multiverse,” and there are 8-9 other officially-sanctioned virtual Burning Man platforms that attempted to recreate different aspects of Burning Man. See this post from Evo Heyning for more context, and you can find the links to the other Burning Man Multiverses on the Kindling site.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

https://twitter.com/AndyFidel_/status/1302016424437833729

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Valve-News-Network

Valve is a critical player in the modern resurgence of VR. They are known for their friendly competitions and cooperation they had with Oculus in the early days of virtual reality spanning from July 2012 to March 20113. Blake Harris’ History of the Future does a great job of laying down a initial timeline (albeit without complete citations as well as an unknown amount of dramatization), but in my interview with Harris he also shared with me beyond very limited conversations with Valve’s Joe Ludwig and Alan Yates, he didn’t have any conversations with any current Valve employees. The only Valve representatives he was able to talk with were former Valve folks who left to work at Oculus. Harris had access to some e-mail correspondence between Oculus and Valve, but in the absence of Valve’s participation, the overall perspective captured in Harris’ book is heavily influenced by Facebook’s side of the story.

On Monday, May 23, 2016, Valve’s Alan Yates responded to a thread on Reddit titled “Oculus becoming bad for VR industry?” after Revive stopped working after an Oculus Update. Responding to eposnix’s comment that “Competition drives innovation and [the Oculus Rift is] the only reason the Vive has its feature set to begin with.” Yates chimed in to say,

While that is generally true in this case every core feature of both the Rift and Vive HMDs are directly derived from Valve’s research program. Oculus has their own [Computer Vision]-based tracking implementation and frensel lens design but the [Oculus Rift Consumer Version #1] is otherwise a direct copy of the architecture of the 1080p Steam Sight prototype Valve lent Oculus when we installed a copy of the “Valve Room” at their headquarters. I would call Oculus the first SteamVR licensee, but history will likely record a somewhat different term for it…

For me, this was a pretty explosive allegation, and on May 24, 2016 UploadVR’s Ian Hamilton wrote a piece called “Inside The Growing Rift Between Valve And Oculus” where he shows an image of Mark Zuckerberg trying out the Valve Room demo in Oculus’ offices on January 29, 2014 — just 55 days before Facebook’s deal to acquire Oculus was announced on March 25, 2014.

Did Zuckerberg know that he was demoing Valve’s technology here? Did the investors from Andreessen Horowitz know that they were trying out some of Valve’s technology when they came to demo the Valve Room demo at Oculus’ offices in Irvine, CA? Blake Harris reports in History of the Future that on October 31, 2013 Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, Brian Cho & Gil Shafir “visited Irvine to check out the progress of Oculus. And over the course of several hours, the folks from Andreessen Horowitz found themselves quite impressed.”

Iribe was able to experience VR without any motion sickness after seeing the Valve Room demo at Valve’s offices in Bellvue, WA in September 2013. He was in the process of trying to raise a Series B round in his talk at the Gamer Insider Summit on October 17, 2013 where IGN reported that he said,

“I’ve gotten sick every time I’ve tried [Rift],” Iribe said. He stated that, after just a couple minutes, he feels ill and tends to stop using his company’s own device. “In the last couple weeks, I’ve tried a prototype internally where I did not get sick for the first time, and I stayed in there for 45 minutes.”

Again, it’s unclear under which contexts Iribe was sharing with people that this breakthrough “internal prototype” was actually Valve’s technology. Whether it was disclosed or not may be a moot point now, but what’s important is that Valve has been a crucial driver of innovation in VR, even to this day. However, Valve is a private company in every meaning of the word, and they have not talked much publicly about some of this history, especially when it comes to their past relationship with Oculus.

Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker has been reporting on Valve for over 10 years now as a fan / investigative journalist / archivist / historian / digital archeologist. He’s got some deep insights into the history of the projects Valve has been working on, the culture of the company, and what motivating Valve to get into VR in the first place. So I wanted to talk to McVicker to get some deeper context on Valve, why they’re so hard to communicate with (he referred to this Steam Dev Days talk by Robin Walker which comprehensively explains Valve’s philosophy when it comes to “external communication”), how he’s able to break stories about Valve by hacking into game patches and Source 2 function calls, what he thinks happened between Valve and Oculus, why he thinks Abrash is the bad guy in this story, and some more about his personal experiences with Half-Life: Alyx, and the underlying motivations for why he does what he does in covering Valve.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

TIMELINE OF VALVE’S COLLABORATION WITH OCULUS + VR Events

After I interviewed McVicker, I went through Harris’ History of the Future to record a specific timeline of the relationship between Oculus and Valve. Harris told me in my interview with him that he had to cut out a lot of information about the relationship between Oculus and Valve due to space considerations, but there’s actually a lot that’s on the public record about the cooperation and collaboration between Oculus and Valve. I didn’t buy my Oculus DK1 until January 1, 2014, and so I was not observing in real-time what was happening with VR between August 2012 and December 2013.

At GDC 2015, Valve was showing off the HTC Vive room-scale VR demos to developers and VIPs in the gaming industry. I was not able to get a demo slot at the time, but I was able to sneak in behind the scenes and take some photos of this mini museum that they had set up.

My full Twitter thread of these photos is here, and the dates are from Road to VR’s coverage who were able to get more dates at the time.

Fiducial-based Positional Tracking – May 2012

valve01

Telescope Low-Persistence Prototype – January 2013

valve02

First Low-Persistence AMOLED Panel – January 2013

valve03

Team Fortress 2 “VR Mode” Shipped – March 2013

valve04

Early Low-Persistence Headset – April 2013

valve05

Early Laser Tracking System – September 2013
“The Room” Demo – September 2013

valve06

Desktop Dot Tracking and Controllers – October 2013

valve07

Steam VR Arrives and “The Room” Demo’d to Public – January 2014

valve08

First Laser Tracked Headset – May 2014

valve09

First Laser-Tracked Input – October 2014

valve10

V minus-1 Headset – November 2014

valve11

VR Controller Prototype – December 2014

valve12

Miniaturized Laser Base Station – February 2015

valve13

HTC Vive Dev Headset – March 2015

valve14

valve15

valve16

NOTE: I originally posted this timeline on August 28, 2020, but I will be updating it as I find more information and context.

July 26-27, 2012
Oculus’ Palmer Luckey & Michael Antonov go to Valve to meet with Michael Abrash and Gabe Newell and show them an early Oculus Rift Prototype in order to get a quote for their Kickstarter Video.
(History of the Future, pg 114-129)

Late July 2012
Days before Oculus Kickstarter Launch, Valve’s Michael Abrash & Gabe Newell submit video testimony for the Oculus Kickstarter pitch video.
(History of the Future, pg 133)

Aug. 01, 2012
Oculus Kickstarter launches
Archival link of first day: https://web.archive.org/web/20120801212942/https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1523379957/oculus-rift-step-into-the-game
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1523379957/oculus-rift-step-into-the-game

12:14 PM · Aug 1, 2012
First Oculus Tweet from @Oculus3D

August 2, 2012
Thank you!
First blog post from Oculus after reaching their Kickstarter goal
https://www.oculus.com/blog/thank-you/

5:50 PM · August 2, 2012

August 3, 2012
“Virtual Insanity” QuakeCon 2012 Panel featuring Oculus’ Palmer Luckey, Valve’s Michael Abrash, & id’s John Carmack. Within 18 months they’ll all be working at Oculus.
Abrash originally started with AR, but says that VR is here now and VR is a subset of AR. Abrash also announces that Valve is “doing in R&D into VR & AR at Valve.”
YouTube Video posted Aug 5, 2012

August 9, 2012
Quakecon Recap and Rift News from Oculus’ blog
https://www.oculus.com/blog/quakecon-recap-and-rift-news/

August 10, 2012
Virtual Insanity at QuakeCon blog post from Michael Abrash on Valve’s site:

I should have posted this sooner, but it’s been a little crazy. It was a blast getting up on the stage with John and Palmer and talking about VR, but it was more as well. As I said during the panel, it felt like this might be one of those seminal moments when the world changes, the point at which a new technology that will change our lives started down the runway for takeoff. Of course, it’s entirely possible that that won’t happen, but it feels like the pieces are falling into place: affordable, wide-field-of-view, lightweight HMDs that can deliver a great experience; inexpensive tracking (cameras, gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers); and, critically, an existing software ecosystem – first-person shooters – that can readily move to VR (although that’s just a start; many other experiences more uniquely suited to VR will emerge once VR is established as a viable consumer technology). VR can only take off if all three pieces are working well, and we’re getting close on all three fronts. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but the remaining issues seem solvable with time and attention, and once they’re solved, we may be off on a long, transformative journey. Where that ends, I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to the ride – and I think it might have started at QuakeCon.

https://web.archive.org/web/20120914002335/https://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/virtual-insanity-at-quakecon/

August 14, 2012
Oculus press release
“Former Gaikai and Scaleform Officer, Brendan Iribe, Joins Oculus as CEO”
Both Iribe and Antanov were seed investors of Oculus and technically already co-founders, but this was announced during the Kickstarter campaign and before Iribe had left his previous job.
https://web.archive.org/web/20120818143925/http://oculusvr.com/press_release_081412/

October 2012
Two members of Valve’s AR/VR team Joe Ludwig & Tom Forsyth start to port over Team Fortress 2 over to VR. “What they wanted to do was port an existing Valve game to work in VR.” It’d be cool, but “it would be a great learning experience in what works, and what does not, in current VR.”
(History of the Future, pg 220-221)

[NOTE: At GDC 2013, Ludwig says they used a NVis ST-50 and a Rift Prototype for testing and development. It’s unclear when Valve got their first Rift prototype. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gpr0FE2ATaY?t=85]

Jan 6, 2013
Oculus PR reps Jim Redner & Eric Schumacher start bringing journalists to their Venetian hotel room for the Oculus CES 2013 demos.
(History of the Future, pg 210)

By the end of CES, Oculus had won a ton of awards at CES 2013 without even having a spot on the showroom floor. They’d be able to raise a $16M Series A round later in the year.
The Verge – Best in Show, Best in Gaming, Reader’s Choice
IGN – Best Prototype
Wired – Best of CES
Laptop Magazine – Best Gaming Device
PCMag – Best Gaming Gear
GameFront – Best of CES
https://www.oculus.com/blog/oculus-rift-at-ces-2013-recap/

Jan 8, 2013
Valve starts to promote early hardware experiments at CES 2013.
The Verge: Valve’s Steam Box gets big push at CES as Gabe Newell meets with major hardware partners
https://www.theverge.com/2013/1/8/3851740/steam-box-inches-closer-to-reality-ces-gabe-newell

Jan 8 2013
Gabe at CES talks about some of Valve’s hardware efforts saying to the Verge: “You can always sell the Best box.”
Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker says that Valve as a company likes to create the absolute best technology and experiences that they can.
Exclusive interview: Valve’s Gabe Newell on Steam Box, biometrics, and the future of gaming
https://www.theverge.com/2013/1/8/3852144/gabe-newell-interview-steam-box-future-of-gaming

January 2013
Oculus’ COO Malamed calculates with the burndown that they’ll run out of money in 6 months from the $2.5M seed investment + $2.5M Kickstarter money, and this catalyzes Oculus CEO & seed investor Brendan Iribe to start fundraising VC money.
(History of the Future, pg 249)

February 11, 2013
Luckey, Iribe, Patel visit Valve
Valve’s Joe Ludwig & Michael Abrash will be presenting at GDC 2013 to communicate that developing for VR is hard.
Again, it’s unclear when Valve first received a Rift Prototype to do the TF 2 port, which started in October.
Antonov, Mitchell, & Luckey were also presenting at GDC 2013
(History of the Future, pg 250)

Feb 12, 2013
Valve’s Jeri Ellsworth was working on AR at Valve when she was suddenly fired, as well as 25-30% of Valve’s staff are laid off.

(History of the Future, pg 250)

March 8 2013
Brenan Iribe is raising money and pitched Chris Dixon from Andreessen Horowitz.
(History of the Future, pg 258)

March 11 2013
Iribe pitched Marc Andreessen directly, who asked him, “How long do you think it’s going to take you to solve motion sickness?”
Iribe didn’t know, and Andreessen Horowitz passes on investing in their Series A. They may be interested again if Oculus ever finds a viable solution for VR motion sickness.
(History of the Future, pg 258)

March 18, 2013
Announcement of Team Fortress 2 will have a new “VR Mode” that “supports the Oculus Rift, available this week!”
https://www.oculus.com/blog/team-fortress-2-in-the-oculus-rift/?locale=en_US

March 18, 2013
Article in Engadget “Valve’s Joe Ludwig on the uncertain future of virtual reality and partnering with Oculus”

[Reporter Ben Gilbert is] “the first anyone outside of Valve will see of the company’s VR efforts thus far.” Ludwig says, “We think that both augmented and virtual reality are going to be a huge deal over the next several years.”

Regarding Oculus: “We’re friends. They help us out with hardware and we help them out with software,” Ludwig says.

“No money changed hands; Oculus provided development kits, and Valve’s providing Team Fortress 2′s VR Mode. The casual nature of that relationship is reflected in Valve’s attitude about releasing the new mode — Team Fortress 2′s VR-enabling update in the coming weeks is essentially a giant beta test in which Valve will measure and analyze the way TF2 players interact with virtual reality hardware.”

“We don’t have any hardware,” Ludwig says when asked about working with Oculus and why Valve didn’t create its own VR headset. “We’ve done a bunch of experiments with various bits of hardware, but we don’t have a display that we can ship. Oculus is actually out there doing this, and so we’re partnering with them because they have the hardware and we have the software and we can help each other out. And we can both learn a lot in the process.”

https://www.engadget.com/2013-03-18-valve-joe-ludwig-interview.html

March 20, 2013

Mar 21, 2013
Oculus Rift Development Kit Unboxing

March 26, 2013
Oculus blog: “Valve announced the new “VR Mode” for Team Fortress 2 last week and we brought the latest Oculus-ready build of the war-themed hat simulator with us to GDC. One of the coolest looking games in Valve’s arsenal, the feeling of actually being Heavy, looking down and seeing the mini-gun in your hands, is worth the trip alone.”

They also promote two of Valve’s GDC talks: “Valve is also giving two talks on virtual reality you won’t want to miss”
https://www.oculus.com/blog/oculus-at-gdc-2013/

March 27, 2013
“Running the VR Gauntlet – VR Ready, Are You?” with Michael and Nate
Wednesday, March 27 @ 2:00PM – 3:00PM (Room 302, South Hall)
Mitchell mentions Valve’s TF 2 Demo at Oculus’ GDC Booth, but also demoing Hawking Mech game.

March 28, 2013
“Virtual Reality: The Holy Grail of Gaming” with Palmer and Brendan
Thursday, March 28 @ 11:30AM – 12:30PM (Room 301, South Hall)
Oculus VR @ GDC 2013: Q&A with Palmer Luckey
[posted April 17, 2013]

March 28, 2013
“Why Virtual Reality Is Hard (And Where It Might Be Going)” presented by Michael Abrash
Thursday, March 28 @ 5:30PM – 5:55PM (Room 2014, West Hall)

March 28, 2013
“What We Learned Porting Team Fortress 2 to Virtual Reality” presented by Joe Ludwig
Thursday, March 28 @ 6:05PM – 6:30PM (Room 2014, West Hall)
Developed TF 2 using the Nvis ST-50 & Rift Prototype HMD
NDI Tracker cost $40,000. at (~30min) 1/10 mm accuracy 300 Hz

March 29, 2013

After May 7, 2013
Recently fired Valve employee Jeri Ellsworth tells Luckey & Patel she’s starting Technical Illusions rather than come work at Oculus.
(History of the Future, pg 288)

6:38 PM · May 9, 2013

May 16, 2013
Valve’s Joe Ludwig IGNITE TALK in Seattle: The second coming of Virtual Reality

May 22, 2013

Announcing Valve’s Tom Forsyth left Valve to work for Oculus
https://www.oculus.com/blog/meet-tom-forsyth-and-steve-lavalle-science-blog-nates-talk-at-gdc-and-unity-trial-extensions/

Forsyth on why he left Valve:
“Because when it’s all said and done,” Forsyth explained, “I just… I like shipping stuff… But the real big payoff is seeing people use you thing. And being a graphics engine person, my job is to bring a fake world into realization. I enjoy watching people use my stuff.”
(History of the Future, pg 292-293)

May 30, 2013
Oculus VR @ GDC 2013: Behind the Scenes

June 17, 2013
Oculus announces series A funding of $16 million
Oculus VR says plans won’t change, as it raises $16 million in venture capital for its virtual reality dreams
https://www.theverge.com/2013/6/17/4439608/oculus-series-a-funding-15-million/in/3631187

June 21 2013
Email from Carmack starts official negotiations for him to join as Oculus CTO.
(History of the Future, pg 297)

July 2013
Iribe & Patel travel to Korea, and showed off “something that ‘shouldn’t work’: a 90 Hz Samsung phone that Valve’s Monty Goodson had hacked to get workin in low-persistence mode” as a proof of concept that Goodson wanted Iribe to show to Samsung.
(History of the Future, pg 299)

August 7 2013
Oculus blog: John Carmack Joins Oculus as CTO announced

Carmack says: “I have fond memories of the development work that led to a lot of great things in modern gaming – the intensity of the first person experience, LAN and internet play, game mods, and so on. Duct taping a strap and hot gluing sensors onto Palmer’s early prototype Rift and writing the code to drive it ranks right up there. Now is a special time. I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer. The paradigms that everyone will take for granted in the future are being figured out today; probably by people reading this message. It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!”

https://www.oculus.com/blog/john-carmack-joins-oculus-as-cto/

September 2013
Abrash tells Iribe “we have somethin in the office at Valve that you’re gonna want to see…”
Iribe goes up to Valve to see the Valve Room demo, at the time they were calling it AtmanVR (by Atman Binstock).
Iribe was in VR for 30-45 minutes and he didn’t get motion sickness, and he’d start raving about his experience of presence.
(History of the Future, pg 307-310)

September 2013
Abrash offered to give Iribe a ride to the airport after seeing the Valve Room demo, which would “give him some one-on-one time to take Abrash’s pulse about maybe leaving Valve and coming up to work at Oculus. Over the past year, Iribe had half-heartedly floated the idea on several occasions.” Iribe tells Abrash that he needs him and Binstock at Oculus. “I need both of you guys at Oculus championing this thing with me. So what will it take to make that happen?”
[Apparently, Iribe had already been trying to poach Abrash for a while. It'd take another 6 months or so for him to be successfull.]
(History of the Future, pg 309)

September 2013
Abrash was not interested in making a move “at this time” and tells Iribe, “You know, Brendan, I think the company that’s going to make VR really successful is going to be a big company. Because the capital that’s going to be required to do the custom displays, the custom hardware, the custom sensor systems, and all this work – to build out the full headset – it’s going to be very expensive to really do this right.”
(History of the Future, pg 310)

September 2013
Abrash told Iribe that Microsoft had been spending hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps billions, on HoloLens, and it “wouldn’t even be consumer ready for years!”
[NOTE: HoloLens wasn't publicly announced until January 21, 2015, and when Abrash was asked directly during Quakecon if major companies where working on developing AR/VR platforms he simply said that major companies will be interested in it.]
(History of the Future, pg 310)

September 2013
Iribe gets back to Oculus and emails the exec team about “Valve’s Holy Grail” – created a VR experience with “zero simulator sickness” “I’d like a group of us to visit Valve and experience the demo first hand.”
(History of the Future, pg 311)

October 2, 2013
Iribe proposes a tech trade to Abrash & Binstock: “We can send over single 120 Hz and dual 90 Hz samples, dev boards with screens, and our screens for the Note 3 driver” in exchange for “one of Atman’s VR room demos.”
(History of the Future, pg 312)

~October 3, 2013
Iribe hears back from Abrash about the tech trade. “Abrash thought the trade he had offered with regard to the Note 3. Abash thought this could work, but also wanted similar assets for Samsung’s S4. Iribe was amenable to that. Over the next week, Iribe and Abrash negotiated a trade. Valve — after signing an NDA with Samsung — would get Oculus’ driver specs and datasheets for the Note 3 and S4; and in exchange, someone from Valve would head down to Oculus and install their “VR Room.”
(History of the Future, pg 313)

October 9, 2013
Internal Oculus Iribe email to former Valve employee Forsyth regarding VR tracking systems: “nothing I’ve seen works nearly as well as what I saw at Valve and we simply don’t seem to have the bandwidth to get it there.” Forsyth pushes back on Iribe saying, “We need to strike a balance somewhere between our mad rush to ship something and Valve’s mad rush to never ship anything ever.”
(History of the Future, pg 314)

October 17, 2013
On October 17, Iribe is so excited about the Valve Room demo that he talks about during a talk during the Games Insider Summit. He describes the tech as “a prototype internally” implying that it’s Oculus technology developed in-house.
“I’ve gotten sick every time I’ve tried [Rift],” Iribe said. He stated that, after just a couple minutes, he feels ill and tends to stop using his company’s own device. “In the last couple weeks, I’ve tried a prototype internally where I did not get sick for the first time, and I stayed in there for 45 minutes.”
Oculus: Motion-Sickness is Solved, 4K ‘Not Far Away’
https://www.ign.com/articles/2013/10/18/oculus-motion-sickness-is-solved-4k-not-far-away

October 17, 2013
Again, either the news org isn’t providing enough context or Iribe was deliberately being oblique.
“In fact, even he gets sick when he uses it, though he says it’s getting much better as they work on it. With the newest update to the headset, he says he’s finally getting to be able to use it.”
“I was able to stay in it for 45 minutes,” he said. “Usually I can’t stay in it for more than two minutes.”
CEO Promises Oculus Rift Won’t Make You Sick
https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2013/10/17/ceo-promises-oculus-rift-wont-make-you-sick/#257556039715

October 17, 2013
After he gave his Gamer Insider Summit speach claiming that motion sickness has been solved, “as soon as Iribe stepped off the stage and turned on his phone: he received a message from Brian Cho, one of the partners at Andreessen Horowitz.”
“Cho was at the Summit and had been intrigued by Iribe’s talk. If motion sickness had really been solved, then perhaps Andreessen Horowitz could play a role in Oculus’ series B.”
“Shortly after receiving Cho’s email, Iribe wrote back to say, ‘We have a new prototype in the office which you guys really need to see. It ties everything together for a comfortable experience that proves VR is very close to mass market ready.’ From there, Iribe reconnected with Chris Dixon and then directly with Andreessen, who replied: “We’re ready to engage.”
[Note: Again, unclear as to whether or not these investors know that some of it is not their tech.]
(History of the Future, pg 316-317)

~October 2013
Binstock installed a setup of Valve’s VR room demo in an empty office at Oculus HQ in Irvine, CA with QR-code fiducial markers “By the end of the day, installation of this demo was complete. And though, going forward, guests to Oculus HQ would be given tours of what they were told was called the Valve Room…” but also internally referred to as “Temple of the Shitting Bird.”
(History of the Future, pg 317-318)

October 31, 2013
Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, Brian Cho & Gil Shafir “visited Irvine to check out the progress of Oculus. And over the course of several hours, the folks from Andreessen Horowitz found themselves quite impressed.”
(History of the Future, pg 319)

Dixon would later cite five reasons why Andreessen Horowitz invested in Oculus:

  • the technology
  • the quality of the team
  • the hand-controller prototypes Luckey had been working on
  • an hour-plus meeting with Carmack
  • a demo of the Valve Room

(History of the Future but no specific citation provided by Harris, pg 319)

“We are fully converted believers,” Andreessen emailed Iribe.
[Their concerns over motion sickness in VR where alleviated once seeing the Valve Room's proof of concept, but again, did they know some of it wasn't their tech?]
(History of the Future, pg 319)

November 5, 2013
Andreessen emails Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – “Have you seen Oculus?… Blew my mind wide open.” After talking to Oculus CTO Carmack he thought, “I wanted to just give all my money to him on the spot.”
Dixon tells Iribe that want to “correct that mistake” of passing the first time, and led a $75M Series B funding round.
(History of the Future, pg 319)

Nov 19, 2013
Andreessen put Zuckerberg in touch with Iribe. Short call between Iribe and Zuckerberg asking about the “killer app?” Iribe says gaming & communication.
(History of the Future, pg 319)

Late 2013
Valve and Oculus pushed each other to innovate on tracking: “many at Oculus relished the chance to go head-to-head with Valve. And that chance came in late 2013 when – in a series of meetups that Nirav Patal affectionaly dubbed “bake-offs” — the two companies compared positional tracking systems.”
Oculus DovTrack vs Valve’s ProTrack.
“The net result: by almost every relvant metric (i.e., distance, precision, FOV), Oculus’s DovTrack was the winner.”
(History of the Future, pg 321)

Dec 12, 2013
Oculus raises $75 million to jump-start the virtual reality business [with Andreessen Horowitz leading the investment.]
https://www.theverge.com/2013/12/12/5205852/oculus-raises-75-million-to-jumpstart-the-virtual-reality-business

Late 2013
Former Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka worked at Facebook and knew Andreessen, and asked “if he should go chat with the guys at Oculus.” Reply was “Yeah… You should definitely meet Brendan.” He got in touch, and made plans to visit Irvine to see the Valve Room demo.
(History of the Future, pg 322)

January 15, 2014
3:00p: Robin Walker “Community and Communication in Games-As-Services (Steam Dev Days 2014)”
Recommended by Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker, this Steam Dev Days presentation by Robin Walker does an amazing job describing Steam’s philosophy of communication focused primarily on their customers of gamers.

Jan 16 2014
3:00 to 3:30p: Michael Abrash “What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be Within Two Years”
PDF: http://media.steampowered.com/apps/abrashblog/Abrash%20Dev%20Days%202014.pdf
Abrash spoke about the need to share technologies with other companies:

Abrash: “Valve’s goal is to enable great VR for the PC. So we’ve shared what we’ve learned through our R&D with Oculus. We’ve shown them our prototypes and demos. We’ve explained how our hardware works. And we’ve provided them with feedback on their hardware design. By showing them a prototype with low persistence, we convinced them of it’s importance. And the lack of blur in Crystal Cove is a direct result of that. We’ve collaborated with them on tracking as well. And we’re continuing to work with them to improve tracking, displays, lenses, and calibration. And we’re excited about where they’re headed.”

Jan 16 2014
3:30 to 4:00p: Palmer Luckey “Porting Games to Virtual Reality” at Steam Dev Days on
Luckey says, “Some of you might have already seen Valve’s VR demo… and it’s probably the best consumer virtual reality system in the world right now.”

[NOTE: Valve News Network: “All You Need to Know on Valve Index” released on Jun 5, 2019 recounts some of this Valve VR hardware history: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ1jyNF0cR0]

January 16, 2014
4:30p: “Virtual Reality and Steam” talk at Steam Dev Days by Joe Ludwig

Joe Ludwig announces Steam VR API during his Steam Dev Days talk, which apparently upset Oculus. According to the dramatized account in History of the Future, Oculus says that Valve was saying to developers “Why write your game for Oculus when you can just use our platform instead?” Oculus wasn’t happy. “It was as if they had spent the last eighteen months creating a toolkit, and now Valve was essentially offering a toolkit of toolkits.”
(History of the Future pg 326)

~January 2014
After Ondrejka sees the room demo at Oculus HQ in Irvine, he tells Zuckerberg, “Their current tech is the best I’ve seen by quite a bit. But you have to actually go down and see the Room demo they have in Irvine.”
“Zuckerberg was intrigued… but still not enough to rearrange his schedule.”
[The fidicial markers and calibration of the Room demo makes it impossible to travel around easily, and so Zuckerberg is opting for a demo of the DK2 precursor of the Crystal Cove prototype that won so many awards at CES 2013.]
(History of the Future, pg 326)

January 23, 2014
Iribe flys to Menlo Park to demo the Crystal Cove VR HMD to Mark Zuckerberg, Ondrejka, FB CTO Mike “Schrep” Schroepfer, and FB VP of Product Chris Cox.

Ondrejka says, “And if you liked that, you gotta get down to Irvine and go check out ‘the Room’ demo.”
“Zuckerberg agreed it was important that he make time to visit soon.”
(History of the Future, pg 326-327)

January 29, 2014
Zuckerberg visits Oculus Headquarters in Irvine, CA.
“With limited time, Zuckerberg demoed the Room, checked out some prototypes of DK2.”
[Again, it's unclear as to whether it was disclosed that the Room demo was Valve's technology or not.]
(History of the Future, pg 328-329)

January 30, 2014
Iribe dinner with Zuckerberg who “elevated the conversation from collaboration to acquisition”
(History of the Future, pg 329)

January 30-31, 2014
Oculus execs deliberated and initially “didn’t have much interest in selling the company,” but then over the next couple of days they were open to the idea if the price was right.
(History of the Future, pg 331)

February 2, 2014
Iribe tells the board “We told them we’d rather build than sell unless it was for 4 [billion]. Pretty sure they’ll pass for now.”
(History of the Future, pg 331)

Feb 1, 2014
Zuckerberg email “I’m disappointed the conversation with your investors has increased your price expectations to a point where it may not make sense to discuss futher.”
(History of the Future, pg 332)

Feb 15, 2014
Zuckerberg tries the VR demos at Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab with Jeremy Bailenson, and then texts Amin Zoufonoun “I just went to this VR lab at Stanford and it was totally awesome. It also confirmed to me that Oculus is miles ahead of everyone else…”

[Again, it's not clear as to whether or not Zuckerberg knew that the Room demo he experienced in Irvine was Valve's technology and not Oculus' when he allegedly says this.]
(History of the Future, pg 333)

~February 2014
Iribe and Mitchell travel to Bellevue, WA to visit Valve’s Abrash & Binstock. “Over the next couple of hours, Iribe and Mitchell pitched the deal hard [for them to come join Oculus], offering equity, autonomy, and the chance to actually ship an incredible product.” They couldn’t convince either of them, and “So, not long after, Iribe decided it was time to call in some reinforcements. Chris Dixon and Marc Andreessen… They flew up and helped Iribe and Mitchell make Oculus’s case over a meeting with Abrash and Binstock at the Seattle Hyatt.”
Again, neither Abrash or Binstock decided to join Oculus yet.
(History of the Future, pg 334-335)

~February / March 2014
“Meanwhile, Abrash and Binstock were increasingly feeling like they were wasting their time at Valve. They both appreciated the freedom that the company had given them to explore virtual reality, but as each became more invested in this technology, it was harder to ignore the fact that this investment did not seem mutual. That, financially speaking, Valve just wasn’t willing to commit much to VR. And after about 18 months of working with this technology, Abrash and Binstock felt like Valve was perpetually dithering and it was time for them to piss or get off the pot.”
(History of the Future, pg 342-343)

First week of March 2014
Abrash and Binstock spent the first week of March meeting with Gabe Newell and Valve’s board of directors to find out if Valve wanted to actively “push forward a VR revolution” and to get some “assurance that this work they had been doing was headed somewhere.”
(History of the Future, pg 343)

Second week of March 2014
“The following week, in a surprise to most, Atman Binstock decided to leave Valve and accept Iribe’s offer to join Oculus.”
Binstock says “Valve is like this jolly fat man who just keeps getting more money and jollier but isn’t willing to take any risks. They aren’t pushing for VR to happen; in fact, I’m not even sure if they care at all whether VR succeeds or fails. Whereas Oculus is different. Oculus is this rocket that is either going to deliver VR or explode spectacularly. And I want to do everything in my power to help ensure the former.”
(History of the Future, pg 343)

March 10, 2014
Iribe emails Gabe Newell:
“Sorry if we caused pain. We love Valve and want to maintain an awesome relationship with you guys. You’re an inspiration to me, Palmer, and the crew. There’s no one we’d rather change the world with…”
(History of the Future, pg 343)

March 11, 2014
Newell emails Iribe
“Yep, we look forward to continuing to work with you and Atman. I’m moving onto the VR team for a bit.”
(History of the Future, pg 343)

March 11, 2014
Oculus blog announcement: Welcome to Atman Binstock Oculus’ Chief Architect
“Atman was one of the lead engineers and driving forces behind Valve’s VR project, creating the ‘VR Room’ demo that garnered so much excitement at Steam Dev Days.”
https://www.oculus.com/blog/welcome-atman-binstock-chief-architect/?locale=en_US

March 16, 2014
Iribe & Carmack visit Zuckerberg’s home after Zuckerberg invited them via email “so they could talk in person about an acquisition… He ended with five words that Iribe loved hearing: I WON’T WASTE YOUR TIME.” After hearing Carmack’s vision, “Zuckerberg wanted to do a deal.”
(History of the Future, pg 344)

March 19, 2014
GDC 2014: Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 (DK2) Pre-orders Start Today for $350, Ships in July
https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-rift-developer-kit-2-dk2-pre-order-release-date-specs-gdc-2014/

~March 19-24
Abrash resigns from Valve, but doesn’t tell Iribe until the day of the Facebook acquisition on March 25, 2014. “Abrash texted Iribe with some rather big news of his own: days earlier, he had resigned from Valve.”
(History of the Future, pg 361)

March 24, 2014
“Finally, after four nearly sleepless days of negotiation, it appeared a deal would be reached.”
(History of the Future, pg 349)

March 25, 2014, 2:30 pm
Mark Zuckerberg Facebook post·”I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology.”
https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101319050523971

March 25, 2014
Facebook to Acquire Oculus
https://about.fb.com/news/2014/03/facebook-to-acquire-oculus/

2:31 PM · Mar 25, 2014

March 25, 2014
Chris Dixon on Oculus: “I’ve seen a handful of technology demos in my life that made me feel like I was glimpsing into the future. The best ones were: the Apple II, the Macintosh, Netscape, Google, the iPhone, and – most recently – the Oculus Rift.”
https://cdixon.org/2014/03/25/oculus

March 25, 2014
Abrash calls Iribe and tells him he resigned from Valve, and then Iribe tried to convince him to join Oculus. Abrash asked to talk to Zuckerberg because “he wants to hear [Facebook's] true commitment to VR.”
Shortly afterwards, Abrash “agreed to become Oculus’s chief scientist.”
(History of the Future, pg 361)

March 28, 2014
Oculus blog: Introducing Michael Abrash, Oculus Chief Scientist

Fast-forward fourteen years. I’m at Valve – which started its existence by licensing the Quake source code – looking for the next big platform shift, and I conclude that it’s augmented reality. Thanks to Valve’s unique structure, I’m able to start working on that, along with several other interested people, including Atman Binstock, who I recruited over coffee at St. James Espresso in Kirkland; Atman is thinking about moving to Paris and writing a debugger, but finally decides to join up. John, meanwhile, is poking at virtual reality, seeing if it’s finally feasible. He sends me mail on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Quake’s release, saying that he has a feeling that something really big is just around the corner, something bigger than anything that’s happened so far. He’s talking about VR.

Then two things happen at about the same time. On one path, Palmer develops his first VR prototype, John and Palmer Luckey connect, Oculus forms and its Kickstarter is wildly successful, DK1 ships, and John becomes Oculus CTO. Meanwhile, I read Ready Player One, strongly recommend it to several members of the AR group, and we come to the conclusion that VR is potentially more interesting than we thought, and far more tractable than AR. We switch over to working on VR just as Palmer’s homebrew project is morphing into Oculus.

From that point, both VR paths have been pretty well documented, Oculus’s in this blog, in the press, and all over the Internet, and Valve’s in my blog and talks. The end result, a year and a half later, is a VR system that can create a sense of presence – the feeling, below the conscious level, that you really are someplace. This is an experience that no one except a few researchers using awkward, hugely expensive equipment had ever had, but within the next couple of years it should be available in a comfortable form factor at a consumer price. In the space of two years, a relative handful of people at two companies, none of them VR experts at the start, somehow managed to resurrect VR from the trash heap of technologies-that-never-were and make it the most exciting technology around.

https://www.oculus.com/blog/introducing-michael-abrash-oculus-chief-scientist/

~March-April 2014
Blake Harris attributes Iribe saying, “We’re not just putting together the best VR team on the planet, but we’re cutting off Valve’s head and offering it to Zuckerberg.” *
* There’s a footnote from Harris says, “Iribe does not recall making this comment. ‘I always maintain a very respectable, good relationship with Valve.’” he says. “And I didn’t make comments like ‘cutting off their head.’”
(History of the Future, pg 362)

Post-March 2014
Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker says it’s hard to get solid information about what was happening between March 2014 to March 2015 at Valve in my interview. See the hardware history pictures listed above that were shown at Valve’s demo area at GDC 2015.

May 2014
Valve goes on to collaborate with HTC to create the HTC Vive.

~October 20, 2014
Valve gathered devs in Seattle to a secret meeting to get early access to Vive dev kits, and for them to build the room-scale experiences that would premiere at GDC 2015.
https://www.engadget.com/2015-03-10-valve-htc-vr-owlchemy-indie-games.html

March 1 2015
HTC Vive is announced at Mobile World Congresss

March 4 2015
HTC Vive demos at Valve’s GDC area.

Please let me know if there’s other information that should be included in this timeline, or if you’d like to speak to me or do a Voices of VR interview about your stories from this period.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

f-reality-podcast

I was invited to join the F Reality Podcast over the weekend with VR Oasis’s Mike, Nathie, Rowdy Guy, and Zimtok5 to be able to talk about this past week’s news about Facebook’s new requirement that all new VR users and hardware will be required to use a Facebook Login after October 2020, and existing users can still use their Oculus accounts on existing hardware until January 2023.

The brought me on to discuss some of the privacy implications of this change, but also to talk about the broader context of Facebook and their relationship to the VR ecosystem in light of my last two podcasts with VR indie developer Anton Hand as well BigScreenVR’s Darshan Shankar.

It’s a lively discussion, and represents a range of different perspectives coming from the gaming enthusiast demographic. I’m excerpting our 75-minute discussion from the F Reality podcast, and share some additional thoughts and takeaways at the end.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s the video version of the podcast where our discussion featured here starts at 48:47

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

bigscreenvr
BigScreenVR is in direct competition with some of the same services that Facebook wants to fully control, and their CEO Darshan Shankar has had to resort to posting an thread on Twitter expressing his frustrations in trying to negotiate with Facebook. BigScreenVR has been selling tickets to movies in their virtual theaters. The content owners were requesting anywhere from 60-80% of the ticket price, but then on top of that Facebook is requiring a 30% transaction fee for any commerce that uses their in-app purchases. Shankar has to sell tickets at a loss in order to even do business on Facebook’s platform and Facebook has been unwilling to negotiate. BigScreenVR is one of the biggest and most active applications with over a millions users, but it is also in direct competition with services that Facebook would prefer to do themselves.

I invited Shankar onto the podcast in order to elaborate on his experiences and frustrations with dealing with Facebook developer relations and executives on this issue. He feels that BigScreenVR is providing a lot of value to the wider community, and that it’s not fair that Facebook’s own services will not have to pay these same transaction fees. Shankar suggests that media consumption is one of the industries that Facebook is artificially preventing from occurring on their platform because Facebook has their own intentions to release competing software and services.

He talks about some of the vague threats and suggestions he’s received to come work at Facebook or otherwise they’re going to “crush” them. He shares his frustrations in watching other developers get their features and functionality copied and cloned. He’s had a hard time getting support and responses on these issues through official channels, and that he also knows a lot of other developers in the realms of e-commerce, productivity, media consumption, and social VR who have faced some similar challenges. He claims that there are many other industries that have stalled because Facebook refuses accept them onto their app store, often with rejections without any further explaination.

He says that there’s a conflict between Facebook’s desire to completely own and control specific aspects of the VR ecosystem while at the same time trying to cultivate a viable developer ecosystem. In his specific case, these goals have competing interests. He felt like the situation had reached such an impasse that he decided to go public on August 18th with his Twitter thread in order to air his grievances with the situation.

Shankar is someone who is truly passionate about the medium of VR, and he feels like the medium itself is unduly being held back due to the future unmanifested intentions, products, and services that Facebook intends to develop and maintain complete control over.

I’ve been hearing frustrations from VR developers about their interactions about Facebook for a long time, but it’s been rare that anyone wanted to speak on the record about it. The online backlash to Facebook’s announcements about mandating Facebook-accounts to use new hardware and phasing out Oculus accounts by 2023 creating a larger context for some VR developers to start to share some of their deeper grievances with Facebook. I’m grateful that Shankar was willing to come speak on the record and elaborate about some of his own experiences, but also reflecting a number of other VR developers who up to this point have not felt comfortable speaking publicly about these issues.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s the Twitter thread that Shankar posted this past week where he detailed how he’s being treated by Facebook.

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

anton-hand-h3
Anton Hand is an indie VR developer with RUST LTD, who is the project lead for Hotdogs, Horseshoes, & Hand Grenades. Hand made the decision sometime in 2016 to not explicitly support any Facebook APIs or hardware for his indie VR project beyond what is afforded within the cross-platform Steam VR APIs.

He’s also taken a lot of public positions against Facebook over the years, which has meant that a number of disgruntled developers have shared with him some of their more negative experiences with dealing with Facebook developer relations. He says that it’s been a bit of an open secret within the VR development community that many people have had bad experiences with Facebook’s developer relations, and he shares some of his own personal experiences and generalizes some anecdotes of what ends up being a lot of one-way communication with Facebook. Some more specific grieviences were aired over the past couple of days by BigScreen developer Darshan Shankar and former AltSpaceVR developer Greg Fodor

We talk about the sad state of developer relationship withing the broader XR ecosystem as detailed in his Twitter thread:

I feel like Hand and I are temperamentally on opposites sides of the spectrum between pessimism vs optimism and realism vs idealism, and the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Or perhaps that’s my optimistic idealism hoping for the best possible outcome beyond what Hand describes as the VR community helping to “build a hellish corpo-panopticon.”

Either way, Hand choice to not to do business with Facebook in any fashion has given him the freedom to speak about a lot of topics that other VR developers avoid discussing on the record. If there are deeper patterns of bad behavior from Facebook relative to independent developers, then it’s worth overcoming some of the chilling effects and speaking out and I’m happy to listen to other experiences that folks would like to share with the larger community.

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here are some other comments from VR developers about Facebook’s behaviors that have come up in the past couple of days:

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

oculus-quest-surveillance

cris-mirandaThe Oculus Quest launched on May 21, 2019. Nine days later I was at Augmented World Expo doing interviews and preparing a main stage talk about The Ethical & Moral Dilemmas of Mixed Reality.

I ran into Enter VR Podcast host Cris Miranda, who was extremely excited about his experience of the Quest and the potential for stand alone VR. My reaction was tempered by my concerns around privacy and Facebook’s future plans for how biometric data was going to be integrated into their business model of surveillance capitalism. I recorded a conversation and dialectic with Miranda exploring a complicated set of tradeoffs between the amazing benefits and concerning risks of Facebook’s VR products and underlying business strategy.

Flash forward to yesterday when Facebook made the controversial announcement that all future Oculus VR users & headsets would be required to use a Facebook account, Oculus accounts will be phased out by January 2023, and Facebook Technologies (formerly Oculus VR, LLC) is being completely folded into Facebook, Inc. There has been a lot of deep concerns around what
this means in terms of how much of our activities in VR are going to be tracked and surveilled.

Miranda explained to me last year how he saw the stand-alone form factor of the Quest as an absolute game changer as it’s the best of class from any other VR stand-alone headsets on the market. The Quest really does have the potential to catalyze wider and broader adoption within the larger XR industry, and it feels like it’s a mature enough and affordable platform for him to be able to unabashedly evangelize to his friends and family.

My hesitations around the future of the Quest stem largely on whether or not these affordable prices are being subsidized on a longer-range plan to feed everything thing we ever say, do, or look at in VR into a giant surveillance capitalism machine. While I share much of the same enthusiasm for the potential of the Quest and stand-alone VR generally, the lack of transparency and accountability of what will be recorded and how it will be used gives me more pause.

Miranda and I debate these tradeoffs and discuss some of the larger concerns that I have around Facebook’s future plans, which seemed to erupt yesterday as a part of the overall skepticism, lack of trust, and backlash that Facebook faced yesterday with their announcement to consolidate the Oculus accounts into Facebook accounts and how “Facebook will manage all decisions around use, processing, retention and sharing of your data.”

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST

Here’s a thread tracking the reactions to Facebook’s announcement yesterday:

This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality