When you hear talk of a border wall, you typically picture an actual, physical construction. The Oculus co-founder and his startup Anduril Industries have been working on a virtual wall -- one complete with cameras, sensors and VR -- with the aim of scoring a US defense contract and providing border security at a fraction of the cost of a physical wall. Luckey discussed plans for this technology last year, but now it's being tested, both officially and unofficially, and it's catching the eye of US officials. Wired reports that Anduril has constructed a prototype of its Lattice system on a ranch in Texas and is also conducting a government-funded test of its technology outside of San Diego. "They said they could provide broader border security for a lower cost," Melissa Ho, managing director of Silicon Valley's Department of Homeland Security office, told Wired.
Just in case you were wondering what Palmer Luckey does with all that Facebook money, a The Daily Beast article reveals what he's been up to lately. The outlet says Luckey confirmed he is behind the Reddit pseudonym "NimbleRichMan," providing financial backing to an organization claiming it's proven that "shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real." The Reddit profile has been deleted, but the group's original announcement is archived here. Dubbed Nimble America, it's a pro-Trump organization spreading anti-Hillary Clinton memes, calling the Democratic candidate "corrupt, a warmonger, a freedom-stripper," claiming that people will only be offended because they hate Trump and can't stand to see successful people. Luckey's liaison with the organization is apparently none other than Milo Yiannopolis.
The whistle of a stiff and constant wind cuts through a silence that gives no hint of the hostilities, both physical and political, that animate these borderlands. Palmer Luckey--yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy--hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering.
When Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey left Facebook, neither said exactly why. The implication that it was due to his quiet donation to a group spreading pro-Trump memes. Now, however, we might have a better idea -- and it raises questions about Facebook's behavior as much as it does Luckey's. The Wall Street Journal has obtained emails and sources indicating that Facebook executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, pressured Luckey to publicly support libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson after word of the donation got out. The company placed him on leave and eventually fired him, albeit with an exit package worth "at least" $100 million.
Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stand to testify in a lawsuit against Oculus, and today it was Palmer Luckey's turn. The founder of Oculus VR -- who has remained out of sight since his role in funding political trolls came to light -- sold his startup to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014, but ZeniMax (parent company of iD Software) claims its tech is based on code Oculus CTO John Carmack wrote while still an employee. According to Bloomberg, Luckey testified that while the company's software ran in a demonstration for investors, he also said "I didn't take confidential code...I ran it and demonstrated it through the headset. It is not true I took the code." The Zenimax lawsuit challenges Oculus' origin story, claiming that Luckey lacked the expertise to develop VR technology.