Palmer Luckey, the creator of the Oculus Rift VR headset and the co-founder of Oculus, will leave its parent company Facebook on Friday, March 31. His departure comes one year after the first consumer Oculus Rift headsets started shipping to customers.
In a statement sent to UploadVR, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed Luckey’s departure, stating that he will be “dearly missed” and added, “We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.” The spokesperson would not comment on whether Luckey is leaving the company on its own or if he was terminated by Facebook.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the current rise of consumer virtual reality technology is due in no small part to Luckey’s efforts. In 2012, at the age of 20, he launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of the first version of the Oculus Rift. It ended up raising $2.5 million, and allowed Luckey and the other co-founders of Oculus VR to continue to develop the headset. In 2014, Facebook bought Oculus for a whopping $3 billion. In addition to developing the PC-based Oculus Rift, the company also collaborated with Samsung on their mobile-based solution, the Gear VR.
However, controversy hit Luckey in 2016, when it was revealed that he helped to financially back a group called Nimble America, which created pro-Donald Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton memes through public advertisements during the recent US Presidential campaign. Many VR developers were not happy to learn about Luckey’s political views and some said they would not work with Oculus anymore.
Luckey mostly kept out of the public view after that news, but he did appear briefly as part of Oculus’s recent trial against ZeniMax. In February, the members of the jury in that trial ruled that Luckey had violated a non-disclosure agreement he signed with ZeniMax, and ordered that both Oculus and Luckey be fined $500 million. The trial’s verdict is being appealed.
Keep in mind that Luckey is still just 24 years old, which means that he can still bounce back from all these issues. Only time will tell where he will end up, and what he will work on next.