Oculus VR hires Valve VR expert Michael Abrash as chief scientist

Wes Fenlon at

Photo by Dan Tabár, from "Faces of Virtual Reality." Click for gallery.

Three days after Oculus announced that it was being purchased by Facebook for $2 billion, the VR company has hired programmer Michael Abrash, who has worked at Valve since 2011. Abrash has been working on Valve's virtual reality technology for the last couple years, and regularly posts deep technical discussions of VR on his blog. Abrash is joining Oculus as Chief Scientist, and in his introductory post on Oculus' website, he cites the Facebook acquisition--and Facebook's deep pockets--as "the final piece of the puzzle" necessary for VR to achieve greatness.

"A lot of what it will take to make VR great is well understood at this point, so it's engineering, not research; hard engineering, to be sure, but clearly within reach," Abrash writes in his introductory post. "However, it's expensive engineering. ... That's why I've written before that VR wouldn't become truly great until some company stepped up and invested the considerable capital to build the right hardware – and that it wouldn't be clear that it made sense to spend that capital until VR was truly great. I was afraid that that Catch-22 would cause VR to fail to achieve liftoff.

"That worry is now gone. Facebook's acquisition of Oculus means that VR is going to happen in all its glory. The resources and long-term commitment that Facebook brings gives Oculus the runway it needs to solve the hard problems of VR – and some of them are hard indeed. I now fully expect to spend the rest of my career pushing VR as far ahead as I can."

Abrash previously worked with John Carmack at id on Quake. He's also worked on Windows for Microsoft and on software graphics rendering.

Just last year, Abrash gave a talk at the Game Developer's Conference about the challenges of VR and showed off Valve's experiments with adding VR support to Team Fortress 2. At the time, Abrash claimed it would take years, or decades, to help VR overcome the limitations of technology. But when Valve showed off its VR technology at Steam Dev Days in January, attendees claimed it was even better than Oculus' Crystal Cove prototype. With Abrash and Carmack now both working at Oculus, Valve's hardware likely won't maintain that edge for long.

Check out our predictions for the future of Oculus Rift in the wake of its acquisition by Facebook.