The brains behind Oculus Rift

Last updated 16:07 27/03/2014

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The other-worlly Oculus Rift virtual reality headset may be the brainchild of 21-year-old Palmer Luckey, but he's had strong support from a couple of veterans along the way to the $2.3 billion Facebook acquisition.


Palmer Luckey grew up near Irvine, California, the son of a car salesman and homemaker, who home-schooled him. He is the original founder and designer of the Oculus Rift.

As a teen, he wanted to be a tech journalist and spent most afternoons parked in front of a six-monitor computer set-up in his bedroom, chatting with fellow gamers. Many of the staffers at Oculus are friends Luckey met on the forums, including Julian Hammersein.

Back then, Luckey "was always full of really strange ideas," Hammerstein recalled in a January interview.

Among Luckey's online forum pals was legendary game developer John Carmack (Quake, Doom) who contacted Luckey to see a prototype. After Carmack showed it at an expo, interest started to build and Luckey pitched it on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, where he quickly raised US$2.5 million for a headset that would go to developers first - there is still no consumer product.

Before starting Oculus VR, he worked as an engineer at USC's Institute for Creative Technologies in its Mixed Reality lab. According to his company bio, he is also known for having "the world's largest collection of VR headsets".


One of the co-founders of seminal video game studio id Software, Carmack joined Oculus VR as chief technological officer in August 2013 part-time, then joined full-time in November. He had hoped that classic and new id games would become available for the headset.

Luckey sent Carmack a prototype headset after the two met on a 3D messaging forum. Carmack reprogrammed a version of Doom 3 to work on the prototype and showed it off at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2012, the first notable public display of the Oculus Rift.

"I really do think VR is now one of the most exciting things that can be done in this whole sector of consumer electronic entertainment stuff," said Carmack, 43, in an interview earlier this year. "I've seen this when we transitioned from 2D games to 3D games and everybody has seen the mobile transition, right now in the last five years. After you have been around for a while, you can notice some of the trends. It really feels like VR has the possibility to be something really huge."

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Oculus chief executive Brandon Iribe, 35, deals with investors and potential partners.

He was chief product officer at Gaikai, a GPU (graphics processing unit) cloud streaming company acquired by Sony. Before that he spent a decade as co-founder and CEO of Scaleform, which provides user interfaces for developers in the video game market; it was acquired by Autodesk.

In an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Iribe said he believed Oculus would "blow open the virtual reality category".

In another interview, he called Luckey "an incredibly dynamic guy".

"He's fun to work with, opinionated when he believes in something and pushes forward forcefully."


Two of Iribe's colleagues from Scaleform are also Oculus co-founders: Michael Antonov, chief software architect, and Nate Mitchell, vice-president of product.

According to his company bio, Antonov is an expert in complex multi-threaded architecture, computer graphics, programming language design, and engineering management.

Mitchell is a software engineer and a product developer and was formerly a lead product engineer at Scaleform.


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