Facebook swoops in on Hugo Barra to lead VR efforts
By Chong Jinn Xiung January 26, 2017
- Zuckerberg looks forward to Barra’s contributions to the VR business
- Move timely as VR technologies are predicted to take off this year
IT LOOKS like the grass is indeed greener and healthier in the Silicon Valley as former Xiaomi executive, Hugo Barra (pic, left) has announced over Twitter that he has joined Facebook as its vice president of virtual reality (VR).
The announcement comes just three days after Barra announced over Facebook on Jan 23 that he would be leaving Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, citing health reasons and a desire to be closer to his family.
"My friends, what I consider to be my home, and my life are back in Silicon Valley, which is also much closer to my family. Seeing how much I've left behind these past few years, it is clear to me that the time has come to return," Barra said in his Facebook post.
He was vice president of international for the past three and a half years with Xiomi where he was the device maker's most vocal and recognisable international spokesperson.
Excited to share Barra’s transition to leading Facebook’s VR division, the social network’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook, “Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They'll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I'm looking forward to having him on our team.”
Barra was likewise excited at the opportunity and vowed to take VR mainstream in his response to Zuckerberg’s post.
Before joining Xiaomi, Barra had acted as Google’s VP and product spokesperson for Android, presenting at several Google I/O keynotes.
His quick transition to the next phase of his career lends weight to speculation that Barra’s reasons for leaving the struggling smartphone maker extend beyond escaping the smog that envelops Beijing and have more to do with seeking greener pastures on his home ground.
Being the head of Facebook’s VR division means that Barra will also oversee the development of products like the Oculus Rift, one of the mainstay VR headsets and equipment of this generation of devices.
Facebook had acquired the VR startup Oculus for US$2 billion in 2014, making a massive bet on the future of VR technology.
With the increased focus on VR technology, Barra’s move is extremely timely as analysts like International Data Corporation (IDC) have projected the worldwide revenue for the virtual reality and augmented reality market to grow from US$5.2 billion in 2016 to more than US$162 billion by 2020.
The VR market may still be in its infancy but the competition has been heating up with rivals HTC’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR in the race for top positions. Things will now get even more interesting moving forward with Facebook looking to place greater emphasis on VR as the next big technology.