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Michael Abrash Joins Oculus, Calls Facebook 'Final Piece of the Puzzle' 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
trawg writes: "Programming legend Michael Abrash has announced that he has joined the Oculus team to work on the Rift VR headset as Chief Scientist, and will be once again working with John Carmack to bring VR to life. His post covers a lot of ground, including the history of his quest for VR, and ends with his explanation of why he thinks the Facebook acquisition is ultimately a good thing — they have the engineering, resources and long-term commitment 'to solve the hard problems of VR.'" Abrash has long maintained a blog about VR tech — it's worth reading if the subject matter interests you.
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Michael Abrash Joins Oculus, Calls Facebook 'Final Piece of the Puzzle'

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  • by Karganeth (1017580) on Friday March 28, 2014 @03:52PM (#46605685)
    Keep that in mind. Facebook is not a company of technological excellence (Apple) or software excellence (Google), but simply got lucky for being the social site that everyone went to.
    • by istartedi (132515) on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:12PM (#46605835) Journal

      I don't think he's going to be dicking around in their web site code. It could be written in Brainfuck for all he cares. What matters is they have MONEY which he can use to fund efforts at using better technology to write it. Somewhere, somebody has some social site written in the cleanest, most beautiful, maintainable, optimized code that ever existed but... they don't have MONEY. Such is the way of the world. Keeping up with the Kardashians (which is all FaceBook really is) rakes it in. By comparison, things of quality might make *some* MONEY but not enough to fund blue sky projects like VR. At least he's not building rockets for the nazis. Things are much better these days for technical people who need a sugar daddy.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:13PM (#46605841)

      Actually, FB has a lot of technological excellence... it isn't seen:

      1: They have done more for biometric security and automated facial recognition than virtually any other company out there.

      2: They have a very well made system for hunting down people who are actual people versus dummy/sock puppet accounts that get squashed.

      3: They are excellent at geolocation.

      4: They created the "commodity hardware, have the backend application do all the redundancy" where the fault tolerance is in the top of the stack, as opposed to the hardware like the IBM mainframes. This allows for the absolute cheapest machines possible, and if they die, things continue on. Even entire data centers can drop off the face of the earth.

      5: They have the best behavioral reporting and profiling tech out there. Want to check if people 18-25 are interested in your new widget? Easily done by a FB trial balloon.

      6: FB advertising is one of the few channels that work. People turn off their TV, but the FB ads will still come to them no matter what. I've used it to propagate info for a non-profit gathering... and attendance doubled.

      7: FB is one of the few enterprises that can actually get btrfs from an early beta state to a finished product that can handle production data. Without Facebook, btrfs would probably spend another five years being semi-ignored.

      8: FB is one of the few Internet based companies, who, a year after IPO, has stock prices higher than they were when hitting the market and still solid.

      9: FB has very tight security. You never see a note about Facebook being hacked, and in security, no news is good news.

      10: FB is platform agnostic.

      So, even though people bag FB, it is one of the smartest-run businesses on the face of the planet.

      • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:20PM (#46605893) Homepage

        Please ignore those facts and take your seat on the Facebook Hate Train.

        • All Aboard!

          Wait, didn't we fight against these dumb fucks in WWII?

          1: They had done more for biometric recognition and genealogical research and helped individually identify virtually entire races of people.

          2: They had a very well made system for hunting down people who are actual people versus dummy/sock puppet newsletters that get squashed.

          3: They were excellent at geolocation.

          4: They created the "normalization of production, just ignore its backend application of redundancy and stagnation." where the fault intolerance is in the top of the stack, and blame flows downhill until a few heads roll, just programmers of IBM mainframes. This cost-shifting allows for the absolute cheapest workers possible, and if they die, things continue on. Even entire races can drop off the face of the earth!

          5: They had the best behavioral reporting and profiling tech out there. Want to check if people 18-25 are opposed to your new propaganda? Easily done by a trial balloon and witch hunt.

          6: They had one of the few propaganda channels that worked too well. People threw away their fliers, but the hateful FUD messages will still come to them no matter what. They used it to propagate info for gathering youths... and attendance soared.

          7: They were one of the few enterprises that had a chance of getting filing systems from an early beta to a finished distributed product that can handle distributed datasets. Without their on demand "Papers Please" model, BTRFS's record keeping journal might never have been invented.

          8: They were one of the few types of governments, who, years after being defeated, were still operational and not criticized by their citizens openly.

          9: They had very tight security. They never let their citizens see a note about them being hacked, and in security, no news is good news.

          10: Their economic and religious model is platform agnostic.

          So, even though people bag Nazis and the Stasi, they are some of the most efficient oppressive forces on the face of the planet.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by vux984 (928602)

        1: They have done more for biometric security and automated facial recognition than virtually any other company out there.

        Yes, but by massively invading the privacy of people who genererally thought they were just sending messages to their friends instead of participating in this research. (sure the ToS and disclaimers were in place, and while they covered their legal asses, their ethics leave everything to be desired.)

        2: They have a very well made system for hunting down people who are actual people versu

        • by H0p313ss (811249)

          Like pretty much any website. Ever

          If only that were true, I can only conclude that you must be new here.

          • by vux984 (928602)

            If only that were true, I can only conclude that you must be new here.

            Your right of course that a shit ton of websites have been single platform / single browser over the years. But by and large the majority of the web has been cross-platform, and the situation today is better than its ever been.

            • by Rockoon (1252108)

              and the situation today is better than its ever been.

              The veracity of this claim is inversely proportional to the veracity of your previous claim.

              Try having a self-consistent view of reality for a change.

              • by vux984 (928602)

                "The veracity of this claim is inversely proportional to the veracity of your previous claim."

                And?

                "Try having a self-consistent view of reality for a change."

                You corrected me. Its absurd to then systematically take the evolution of a set of beleifs and then triumphantly claim someone is internally inconsistent after convincing them to change their mind by contrasting the claim they started with to the one they ended with.

                My view of reality is entirely consistent. Its just not the same view of reality I had

            • by H0p313ss (811249)

              If only that were true, I can only conclude that you must be new here.

              Your right of course that a shit ton of websites have been single platform / single browser over the years. But by and large the majority of the web has been cross-platform, and the situation today is better than its ever been.

              I think the web has been a great leveler platform wise and the situation has improved enormously, but I think the majority being cross-platform is relatively recent. Between 2002 and 2008 or so IE had a stranglehold and there are TONS of IE specific applications out there.

              Right now with XP support disappearing the companies that invested heavily in Microsofts platform specific technologies, that Microsoft have now basically abandoned themselves. These companies are now scrambling to either migrate off XP an

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:50PM (#46606163)

        And one more thing. The basic functions of the site wouldn't be hard to create and run for a 100 people. But do that for a million and things get different. Do it for 1.2 billion and things get fucking weird. They MUST have some serious shit going on to operate at that scale. Yeah, they've got tons of market analysts and designer-types, but somewhere they've got some Ph.D. computer science guys that are making the core of the thing run, inventing technology that doesn't exist anywhere else because this kind of scale just isn't normally done.

      • by epyT-R (613989)

        1. Since when are biometric security and facial recognition capabilities that help the current problems society is facing? If anything, they make things worse.

        2. Again, another technology that is NOT helping the surveillance problem.. It's making it worse.

        3. Ditto.

        4. Interesting, but this has been done before.

        5. More surveillance and advertising.. I guess this is good if you're a government agent or an advertiser, but it's not good for anyone else.

        6. Ditto

        7. Maybe. I'd trade btrfs for more privacy on the

      • by pla (258480)
        2: They have a very well made system for hunting down people who are actual people versus dummy/sock puppet accounts that get squashed.

        And yet, my chinchilla still has an account. Which has never (age adjusted into human years) lied about its chinchilla-ness. Mighty fine police work there, Zuck!

        4: They created the "commodity hardware, have the backend application do all the redundancy" where the fault tolerance is in the top of the stack

        Yeah, Google wants a word with you...

        5: They have the best
      • by LoRdTAW (99712)

        So, even though people bag FB, it is one of the smartest-run businesses on the face of the planet.

        Jee, how much is FB paying you per hour to post this crap. What, they didn't have any spare /. accounts kicking around so they had to post anon?
        Are you one of the same shills that is astroturfing on reddit?

        http://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/21d2bi/proof_with_absolute_evidence_that_facebook_shills/ [reddit.com]

        http://www.infowars.com/facebook-accused-of-astroturfing-reddit-to-silence-criticism/ [infowars.com]

        Facebook is essentiall

        • I don't believe that you can make an honest assessment because you believe every single statement from Facebook to be a bold faced lie.

          Do you really believe the only way Facebook can make money from this is to turn it into a Facebook device?

      • 9: FB has very tight security. You never see a note about Facebook being hacked, and in security, no news is good news.

        You don't really pay attention to security do you? Here's a fun video for you. [youtube.com]

    • No. You think that Facebook crushed MySpace and Friendster without any sort of technological or software competence? Hundreds of millions of people opened accounts there for absolutely no reason?

      • Facebook crushed myspace because myspace went to total shit faster than Facebook did, and arguably benefited a bit from learning from the mistakes of myspace and friendster. They have picked up some innovation in scalability and reliability along the way, but their success is more due to the incompetence of their competitors than their own competence.
    • Facebook is written in php...Keep that in mind. Facebook is not a company of technological excellence

      If you look below the annoying surface of the Facebook page, you'll find a very different story. Facebook actually HAS been a company of technical excellence.

      On PHP in particular, most technical people look down on PHP... but instead of doing that, Facebook figured out how to fix some of what was broken [techrepublic.com] about PHP so they could still use the good aspects of it.

      That's not a company that does not have some tec

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday March 28, 2014 @03:53PM (#46605687) Homepage Journal

    You can finally see the picture. It's a giant middle finger. Flipping you off. Forever.

  • You can have all the engineering genius in the world, but when you have famous programmers abandoning the platform because of it's association with Facebook [notch.net], what's the point?

    If a tree falls in a forest with nobody to hear it...

    • by Macthorpe (960048)

      And yes, I can't spell irrelevant. That isn't relevent to my point!

    • As much as I love and respect Notch, his knee-jerk reaction does not help VR at all. Its fine if he wants to pull out, but the FB deal is done, lets move on and get VR going.
      • by Macthorpe (960048)

        I agree and disagree - we should get VR moving, but there are other projects to put resources into that won't have Facebook's history of dumping on their partners.

  • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:13PM (#46605843)

    And I call Facebook the final straw.

  • Not. VR is definitely cool for games and art, but in many other cases it is overrated. Data analysis, science, or medicine will not really benefit from it in the form of VR headsets.
    This is different with augmented reality. This is can really be helpful for many people.

  • Does anyone know what's so special about Oculus? Do they have some intellectual property that will make them money, or are they just improving on 30 year old ideas [youtube.com]?

    It seems to me that all we're waiting for are component prices(high res, compact LCDs and accurate, fast sensors) to drop. Sure, there will be some software work, but we already have stereoscopic support in game engines and now 3d media content.

    Sure, there will be a lot of work crafting new interfaces and presentation schemes, but that's all so

    • by sjbe (173966)

      Does anyone know what's so special about Oculus?

      Somewhat like bitcoin it has hit a segment of the geek population that thinks it's something especially cool and they've been selling it at a price point that hard core gamers can afford to give it a spin.

      Do they have some intellectual property that will make them money, or are they just improving on 30 year old ideas

      The later. Occulus is nifty but it's evolutionary improvement on technology that has existed for a long time. There still appears to be no killer use case for their product outside of a small segment of gamers. Facebook paying $2 billion for this company is an absurd overpayment. I seriously cannot fig

      • Major imagination fail. You have no idea what you're talking about. This is going to change the world on many, many levels. That's why FB bought them. I'm not going to bother to prove this for you, but just wait for it to happen.
  • But of course, they won't be able to get funded through kickstarter now. That well has been poisoned for this sort of project, at least.

    But maybe this will be what convinces an investor to get on board there. And then hopefully that won't become as contaminated as this. And it's what's really wanted, a good augmented reality display. I don't just want to replace life, I want to augment it :p

  • Facebook now has VR googles, so we can go visit the inter webs!

  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:41PM (#46606063) Homepage

    After the FB/Oculus news, I looked into alternatives and found about this InfinitEye [roadtovr.com] project from France that claims to do 210 degree of horizontal FOV, fully covering the human peripheral vision (while the Rift only does only 90 degrees). I'd pay attention to this one now.

  • It's sounding a lot like this acquisition really has a lot less to do with Facebook itself, than just to do with Facebook's money. FB is in a business that can only be monetized so much. It's also a nook where many predecessors have suddenly gone from most-popular-site-eva to a discarded remnant. Geocities, Myspace, etc were also very popular in their day but inevitably doomed.

    If Microsoft could start a successful game console, perhaps FB can move into the VR market. I see disastrous things if they try to m

    • by mark-t (151149)

      I see disastrous things if they try to mix their core business with Occulous

      I think that everybody who is against this does... what's more is that the most of the people who are against this believe that FB is liable to try this anyways.

      But if they can make an awesome VR system that's reasonably priced without turning it some kind of facebook appliance, that's just great. I hope that's what they do.... it's not, however, what I seriously expect to happen.

  • by ggraham412 (1492023) on Friday March 28, 2014 @04:44PM (#46606093)

    From the article, Abash has been around for 57 years ?

    Oculus HR obviously didn't get the memo yet to ignore guys over 30.

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Friday March 28, 2014 @05:13PM (#46606309)

    "This is the year that virtual reality becomes mainstream" [1-25]

    [1] Some guy, (1964.)
    [2] Some guy, (1974.)
    [3] Some guy, (1979.)
    [4] Some guy, (1981.)
    [5] Some guy, (1982.)
    [6] Some guy, (1983.)
    [7] Some guy, (1984.)
    [8] Some guy, (1986.)
    [9] Some guy, (1989.)
    [10] Some guy, (1994.)
    [11] Some guy, (1995.)
    [12] Some guy, (1996.)
    [13] Some guy, (1997.)
    [14] Some guy, (1999.)
    [15] Some guy, (2000.)
    [16] Some guy, (2002.)
    [17] Some guy, (2003.)
    [18] Some guy, (2006.)
    [19] Some guy, (2007.)
    [20] Some guy, (2009.)
    [21] Some guy, (2010.)
    [22] Some guy, (2011.)
    [23] Some guy, (2012.)
    [24] Some guy, (2013.)
    [25] Some guy at Facebook, (2014.)

    • It's rarely a good thing to be ahead of your time, and that applies twofold to technology. Releasing technology before it is capable of providing a solid user experience is counterproductive because it gives the technology a bad name, reducing interest in the required research necessary to provide a solid experience.

      In the past, Virtual Reality did not work because the helmets were too heavy, the graphics were too demanding, the screen resolutions and refresh rates were too low, and the motion sensors w
  • The trouble with VR is that it's hard to do anything in there except move and shoot. Manipulation sucks without force feedback. When VR was first developed, there was a lot of interest in it for CAD. But it didn't help.

    Trying to assemble parts in VR is no better than doing it with a mouse and screen. Legos might work. VR Minecraft is quite possible, because things snap into place in easily implemented ways. Real world parts don't fit together as simply.

    (Although, thinking about this, it might be possibl

    • by eulernet (1132389)

      I don't agree.
      I think that VR is most suited for watching 3D movies (especially 3D rides), chatting with your friends and probably watching porn.

      This is not a joke !
      VR is a nausea device: when you move, you are disorientated because the visual signal is different from your internal sense of balance (in the ears).
      Also moving hands is tiring (trying keeping your hands up during 15 minutes, and you'll see what I mean), a joypad is a much better device to reduce waste on movements.

      When I tested VR 15 years ago,

  • by paiute (550198) on Friday March 28, 2014 @10:14PM (#46607771)
    I'm guessing that the puzzle he just solved was how to finance his retirement account.
  • He's close. It's actually the final piece of go fuck yourself because now NOBODY is going to buy it.

[Crash programs] fail because they are based on the theory that, with nine women pregnant, you can get a baby a month. -- Wernher von Braun

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