- Twitch/Oculus VR
The baby-faced 24-year-old who founded Oculus VR, the virtual reality company that Facebook bought for $2 billion two years ago, was nowhere to be seen at his company’s biggest annual event.
Palmer Luckey disappeared from social media after a Daily Beast report outed his financial support of an alt-right political group named Nimble America. That was on September 22 – he posted an apology letter to his Facebook account on September 23, but has otherwise not said a peep.
No interviews, no social media, no Reddit posts (he used to be an active Redditor).
And no appearance at his own company’s big event, Oculus Connect, it looks like. It’s an annual event focused on software developers who are making stuff for the Oculus Rift, and it’s happening this week. On Thursday, the big keynote took place at 10:00 a.m. PT.
The company rolled out expected players to start: CEO Brendan Iribe, VP of Product Nate Mitchell, and then…?
Another baby-faced billionaire: Mark Zuckerberg. But not the baby-faced millionaire. No Palmer.
- Twitch/Oculus VR
Zuck spoke to the past, present, and future of Oculus, and even showed off two new products:
- First, a wire-free version of the already existing Oculus Rift VR headset dubbed the “Santa Cruz prototype,” speaking to the future of Oculus VR. Second, a social VR version of Facebook, speaking to the future of Facebook.
It’s easy to see how this dual-announcement might’ve been divided had Luckey not gotten into so much hot water. So, what happened?
- Time Magazine
Luckey reportedly contributed $10,000 to a group named Nimble America (a claim he confirms).
The group, Nimble America, is against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Its plan to combat her and elect Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is to use internet memes in real life.
As a member of Nimble America said on Reddit: “We’ve proven that s–tposting is powerful and meme magic is real.” Here’s one of the groups billboards:
- Nimble America
Nimble America has roots in a Reddit group named “/r/The_Donald,” a subreddit that’s associated with the alt-right – a movement known for white nationalism, anti-Semitism, conspiracy theorists, and Gamergate supporters (for starters).
While that’s unfortunate unto itself, Luckey also said things on the record in the original report on The Daily Beast that he later denies; email evidence seems to counter Luckey’s denial. As a result, he’s frustrated both loyal fans (who are angered by him seemingly lying) and folks who find his political views troubling.
Understandably, Facebook’s pulled him from his usual spot on-stage – before the report in September, Luckey was the main figurehead of Oculus VR. He was featured on the cover of Time Magazine and Wired, and he was notorious for showing up on stage in sandals or barefoot. Reports on the ground at Oculus Connect are that he’s not even in attendance, nor is he hosting the usual press demos.
- Ben Gilbert
While Luckey’s sudden disappearance is understandable, it’s a bizarre hole left during a very visible moment for Facebook’s VR company. Luckey didn’t respond to request for comment, and Facebook responded to say it had no statement.
Update: In an interview with UploadVR, Oculus content head Jason Rubin said that Luckey voluntarily skipped the event altogether, because he “did not want to be a distraction.” Rubin added that Luckey is still an employee at Oculus.