A Chat With Oculus VR Founder Palmer Luckey

A Chat With Oculus VR Founder Palmer Luckey

Los Angeles — A few years ago, journalism major Palmer Luckey dropped out of Cal State Long Beach to work on a device that would wrap a small computer monitor across a person’s face.

With the company he founded, Oculus VR, ready to finally sell those virtual-reality display goggles to consumers early next year, the 23-year-old Luckey is giddy. At a conference that Oculus — now owned by Facebook — held in Hollywood last month, Luckey celebrated several announcements, including the development of a Minecraft app for virtual reality, tossing toy swords, T-shirts and more swag into a crowd of more than 1,500 people.

A few hours later, the Los Angeles Times asked him to elaborate as he sat on the edge of a hotel-room couch.

∎ How bringing the popular construction game Minecraft required haggling and something tangible to show.

Two years ago, Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack first asked the people behind Minecraft to consider a virtual-reality app version.

Getting Minecraft to prioritize virtual reality took a while, Luckey said. After Microsoft purchased Minecraft developer Mojang AB earlier this year, its employees have been preparing the game for new Microsoft devices.

But when Carmack pushed Mojang again, the company finally offered him special access to modify Minecraft. Oculus lawyers told Carmack that an onerous contract with Mojang had basically turned him into a Microsoft employee, but he saw Minecraft as being too important to give up on for any reason.

He ended up turning heads at both companies with a modified Minecraft.

“I think John really proved you could make Minecraft work well in VR, so everyone was like how can we get this out people?” Luckey said.

Carmack said Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got involved to finalize the deal.

∎ Why watching Netflix on the Gear VR will be like having a portable cinema.

Luckey’s answer: It’s better watching for 3-D content than most 3-D televisions, and it’s a portable experience.

The latter, of course, is only true for the Samsung Gear VR — a $99, sort-of “lite” version of Oculus’ main headset. Unlike the flagship Rift, the Gear VR doesn’t need to be wired to a computer.

“You can have this virtual big-screen experience with something you can carry in your backpack,” he said.

Author: Paresh Dave Los Angeles Times

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