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.
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.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Oculus founder Palmer Luckey acknowledged giving 10,000 to Nimble America but denied he was the founder of the pro-Donald Trump group which created anti-Hillary Clinton Internet memes. Luckey, who sold his virtual reality company to Facebook in 2014 for 2 billion, said he donated the money "because I thought the organization had fresh ideas on how to communicate with young voters through the use of several billboards." Nimble America put up a billboard near Pittsburgh featuring a distorted image of Clinton with the caption: "too big to jail." Luckey's involvement in Nimble America, reported Thursday by The Daily Beast, roiled the community of virtual reality software developers, some of whom threatened to stop making games for Oculus, a unit of Facebook. Oculus plans to hold its annual conference for developers Oculus Connect on Oct. 5.