Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Facebook-owned VR company Oculus and primary inventor of the Oculus Rift headset, is leaving the company. “Palmer will be dearly missed,” Facebook told UploadVR, which broke the news, and later confirmed to The Verge. “Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and helped build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best.” Facebook apparently did not confirm whether he had left voluntarily.
The 24-year-old Luckey became a controversial figure after he reluctantly admitted to helping fund an internet trolling group supporting Donald Trump. Luckey apologized and has remained largely out of sight since then, although he testified in a lawsuit against Oculus by gaming company ZeniMax, which won a $50 million judgment against him. It’s unclear what Luckey’s role has been since Oculus reorganized late last year, but Oculus and Facebook insisted that Luckey was still with the company at that time. More recently, fellow co-founder Brendan Iribe said Luckey was “still working in an active capacity” on his team at Oculus. Apparently, that’s no longer true.
Before his withdrawal from the public eye last year, Luckey was arguably the face of the virtual reality industry. There’s no clear successor to this role, in part because virtual reality has expanded so much since he announced the Rift in 2012. Whatever happens, at least we’ll always remember the surprising joy of his Time magazine cover — a relic of a more innocent time.