It appears that the abrupt departure of Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe from Facebook may have been caused by the company’s decision to cancel the second-generation Rift virtual reality headset. Iribe announced his departure from Facebook at the beginning of the week, noting that he is now moving on “after six incredible years.” Now more details are surfacing on what precipitated the rift between Facebook and Iribe.
While Iribe praised the Oculus team, which was acquired by Facebook in March 2014, he noted that there is still more work to be done. “Every part of VR and AR needs to improve, especially the hardware and core technology, and Oculus has the best team in the world to do that,” the executive said in a blog post announcing his departure from the social networking giant. “Although we’re still far from delivering the magical smart glasses we all dream about, now they are nearly within our reach.”
Iribe’s statement led to speculation that the departure may have been less than amicable than what we were led to believe and TechCrunch reported that the executive left Facebook because he shared “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time” than the rest of the executive team. “Iribe wasn’t interested in a ‘race to the bottom’ in terms of performance,'” the report stated.
That difference may have culminated recently at Facebook’s recent VR-focused developer conference, called Oculus Connect 5. At the event, Oculus showed off its new vision for stand-alone virtual reality experiences in the form of the $399 Oculus Quest, which will begin shipping next week. Unlike the Rift, the Quest doesn’t require wires or a connection to a high-end PC with discrete graphics. Instead, the Quest is powered by smartphone-based components, like a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, to deliver on Facebook’s vision of VR for the masses.
If the TechCrunch report is accurate, than Iribe may have been pushing for Facebook to prioritize work on the Oculus Rift 2, rather than stand-alone experiences like the Oculus Go and Quest headsets. Because the Rift connects to a higher-end gaming PC with discrete graphics, it represents a more powerful experience. Even with Facebook hyping the power of the Quest, in our hands-on review of the headset at Connect 5, we found that performance is somewhat compromised because it comes with a weaker Snapdragon processor. Still, Quest did deliver an immersive VR experience and walked a fine line between performance and portability.
Though Facebook did not confirm the publication’s hypothesis, it said that it is working on a future version of Rift. “While we can’t comment on our product roadmap specifics, we do have future plans, and can confirm that we are planning for a future version of Rift.” the company said in a statement. Facebook did not deny that the Rift 2 has been canceled and it’s unclear what a Rift successor would look like.
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