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.
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.
Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus VR and creator of the Rift headset, is no longer with the company. Following the news that he'd donated $10,000 to a group spreading pro-Trump memes, the 24-year old had increasingly shied away from the public eye. That even went as far as skipping last October's Oculus Connect event so as not to be a "distraction" to the news coming out of the conference. "Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer's legacy extends far beyond Oculus.
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.
Google may have backed out of the US military's Project Maven, but that doesn't mean other tech companies are unwilling to participate. The Intercept has learned that Oculus Rift co-founder Palmer Luckey's defense company, Anduril, won a contract to support the drone AI initiative in 2018. The firm will also support the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, according to newly obtained documents. While there aren't specifics around what that contract would entail, Project Maven relies on machine learning to detect people in drone videos and provide more effective intelligence data. Anduril is most commonly known for its existing system, Lattice.