Valve's Michael Abrash, who was just giving a talk about the wonders of virtual reality at the company's Steam Dev Days in January and has seemingly led the company's VR research, has taken a job as chief scientist at red-hot VR company Oculus. In announcing his move, Abrash also explained why Facebook's controversial $2 billion purchase of Oculus is great news:
The final piece of the puzzle fell into place on Tuesday. A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it's engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach. For example, there are half a dozen things that could be done to display panels that would make them better for VR, none of them pie in the sky. However, it's expensive engineering. And, of course, there's also a huge amount of research to do once we reach the limits of current technology, and that's not only expensive, it also requires time and patience – fully tapping the potential of VR will take decades. That's why I've written before that VR wouldn't become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn't be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.
That worry is now gone. Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can.
Valve is one of the more attractive companies to work, but Oculus has proven to be alluring as well, recruiting top talent from around the gaming industry. Their most notable get has been John Carmack, Abrash's former colleague at id Software and now Oculus' chief technology officer.
There's no doubt that Oculus' Facebook investment—which Oculus and Facebook both swear won't change Oculus from operating, as planned, to make VR first and foremost for games—will allow them to hire more big names in the future.