Facebook’s new head of virtual reality is former Xiaomi, Google man Hugo Barra

hugo barra leaves xiaomi news mark zuckerberg vr selfie
Hugo Barra, the man responsible for Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi’s global development, has left the company and will join Facebook to become the lead executive driving the social network’s virtual reality efforts. The two announcements came within days of each other. Barra joined Xiaomi in 2013, leaving his role as vice president of Android product management at Google, and has since helped Xiaomi launch in several new locations, pushing the brand itself further into the consciousness of international smartphone and technology buyers.

Facebook, which owns VR company Oculus, has major plans for virtual reality. In a post welcoming Hugo Barra to the team, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls virtual and augmented reality, “the next major computing platform,” a vision he says is shared by Barra. His new role at the company will be VP of virtual reality, which encompasses heading up the Oculus team, and to commemorate the occasion, the two took a VR selfie together. No start date has been revealed, although Barra says he expects to begin work at Facebook, “in a couple of months.”

Leaving Xiaomi

The news comes just a few days after Barra wrote about his departure from Xiaomi in a lengthy Facebook post, where he said living in Beijing away from his family, “has taken a huge toll on my life and started affecting my health.” He continued to say, “My friends, what I consider to be my home, and my life are back in Silicon Valley, which is also much closer to my family. Seeing how much I’ve left behind these past few years, it is clear to me that the time has come to return.”

At the time, the only mention regarding his future was that he would take some time off after leaving Xiaomi in February, before, “embarking in a new adventure back in Silicon Valley.”

While we now know Facebook is his new home, Barra made it clear in his original posting that he’s not cutting ties with Xiaomi. Not only will he remain a fan, but CEO Lei Jun has asked him to continue as an advisor for the company. In a reply to Barra’s Facebook post, Xiaomi co-founder Bin Lin also mentions this role, saying he looks forward to working closely with him in the future. He also says, “As much as we would love to have Hugo seat with us in Beijing for a much longer time, we understand his personal challenges and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”

Who will take his place at Xiaomi?

Xiaomi has announced Xiang Wang will now lead the company’s global expansion efforts. He joined the company in 2015 from Qualcomm China, and occupies a senior vice president role at Xiaomi. However, while Barra is known for his enthusiastic use of social media to connect with international fans, Xiang Wang doesn’t appear to have a Facebook or Twitter account of his own, and doesn’t regularly use China’s popular Weibo platform.

In his Facebook post, Barra singles out India as one of his biggest achievements at Xiaomi, where with his assistance, it has become the firm’s largest market outside China. However, despite success, Xiaomi says it pushed too hard in its early years, and that to build sustainable growth for the future, it needs to slow things down. This doesn’t mean it’ll end its global efforts — Bin Lin says it has “ambitious expansion plans” for 2017 — but along with Barra’s departure and Xiang Wang’s appointment, we may see strategic adjustments to fit in with these changes.

Opinion

Tim Cook said Silicon Valley built a chaos factory. Are Apple’s hands clean?

The King of Silicon Valley just called it a “chaos factory.” Giving a commencement speech at Stanford University, Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized his fellow tech giants for disregarding the privacy of their customers.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Those Marvel Phase Four leaks are probably fake, and here’s why

A new collection of rumors from a purported "Marvel insider" claim to reveal what the future holds for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the MCU's Phase Four film slate, but have some major red flags.
News

What net neutrality? FCC head Ajit Pai would rather regulate Facebook

Ajit Pai isn't known for being a fan of regulation, but in a Senate hearing on May 12, he called Silicon Valley tech companies a threat in response to a question about net neutrality.
Mobile

Nomad’s new Kevlar cables are seriously tough and seriously fast

Nomad has just released an update to its super-tough Kevlar range of cables to include a new USB-C to Lightning cable and a blisteringly fast 100W USB-C cable. They're expensive, but they're the toughest cables you'll find.
Mobile

Rumors say Sony is making an Xperia phone with a six-lens rear camera

How many camera lenses is too many? In the current market, we've seen phones with one, two, three, and even five lenses -- and now rumors are currently saying Sony is planning an Xperia smartphone with six lenses.
Mobile

The LG V50 ThinQ will be available from Verizon starting on June 20

LG has a habit of releasing too many phones. Following on the heels of the V40 ThinQ, the company has now unveiled the LG V50 ThinQ. There's 5G support, as well as an accessory that turns it into a foldable phone.
Mobile

Your smartphone knows all your secrets. Put it on lockdown with these tips

Having your smartphone hacked can feel like someone robbed your house. It's a massive invasion of privacy and a violation of your personal space. We've put together a checklist of precautions that will help you avoid this terrible fate.
How-To

You can delete Snapchat messages in a snap with these simple tips

If you've ever sent a message to someone and wish you could delete it, Snapchat has a feature you'll like. Yes, it lets you delete messages you've already sent. There are some limitations, though. Here's how to delete Snapchat messages.
Mobile

T-Mobile and Sprint may sell $6 billion in assets to win merger approval

T-Mobile and Sprint are getting closer to merging. After a few failed attempts, the two companies announced their merger at the start of 2018. The new T-Mobile could be better positioned to take on the likes of Verizon and AT&T.
Mobile

Google may speed up the rollout of RCS Chat by taking over for carriers

What is RCS messaging? It's the successor to today's text messaging. It offers features like real-time audio, read receipts, and encryption, but adoption so far has been slow. Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Report: Samsung will launch the Galaxy Note 10 on August 7 in New York

According to a new report, Samsung will launch the Galaxy Note 10 at an event on August 7 in New York City. The news lines up with last year's event, which took place on August 9, and was also in New York.
Mobile

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 may launch on August 7, according to report

The Samsung Galaxy S10 range was only just revealed, but Samsung is already working on the next big release. Not much is known about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 just yet, but we do have a few details.
Deals

Apple drops price cuts on refurbished MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones

Apple's online storefront has some decent discounts if you know where to look. Assuming you're okay with buying refurbished, Apple has some pretty solid savings on iPads, MacBooks, Mac Minis, iPhones, Apple Watches, and more.