The former face of the virtual world has come back to his old reality as Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus, paid a short visit back to Long Beach State.
Luckey spoke to a journalism class about his widely publicized career, gave his thoughts on current technological trends and provided students with insight into the world of Silicon Valley startups.
The LBSU alumnus grew up in Long Beach and attended Golden West College and Long Beach City College. He enrolled at the university in 2010 as a journalism student and worked at the Daily 49er as online editor.
Luckey took a break from school to focus on his virtual reality headset. Soon after making a significant breakthrough, Luckey began a Kickstarter campaign for his Virtual Reality headset Oculus Rift. Luckey’s headset gained the endorsement of prominent video game companies and Silicon Valley tech companies. Luckey set a goal of $250,000 to fund Oculus. Within 24 hours, Oculus raised $670,000. After three days, they raised over a million dollars. Eighteen months later, Facebook had purchased his VR company Oculus for $3 billion dollars.
Things didn’t go as well as he hoped, when two years ago Luckey was fired from Facebook after controversy over his support for a pro-Trump group, he said.
Immediately after, the 26-year-old alumni co-founded his new company, Anduril Industries, a defense technology start-up based in Orange County. Anduril focuses on augmented reality and virtual reality for national defense and security applications.
Luckey was able to conduct a short Q&A with several students in attendance:
How were you so confident to leave school and start a business? What motivated you to do that in the first place?
For a long time I was working on my VR headset, on my own, in my garage, years before I went school. I didn’t go into VR because I wanted to start a business. I got into it because I was very fascinated with virtual reality and the concept of escaping into a virtual world and leaving the real one behind. For years it was just a hobby, and then all of a sudden I had a pretty big breakthrough in the quality of my device. I had been showing it to people and close friends for years to show them, “Hey, here’s what I’ve been working on,” and the universal response was “This is stupid and so are you.” These were my close friends, and they were telling me the truth. Then I made a pretty significant breakthrough, and all of sudden everyone was saying, “Hey man, I was wrong, this is actually cool now.” And so, when you are excited by something, kind of discount that, because you can easily get excited by your own thing. But when you get other people excited about it, that’s when you know you have something very special.
How did the Oculus Rift get so much exposure before it even launched?
I don’t know how to put this without being all braggadocious, but the Oculus Rift was revolutionary. It was the lightest, widest field-of-view lowest latency VR headset that ever existed, and we were selling it for $300. There were headsets that were far worse that had been sold for professional and academic applications in the $60,000 to $100,000 range, that we were far superior to. So it was a really, really big deal. People had been dreaming about VR for years and decades and I think that VR is going to change the world. I think it is an inevitable technology that is going to get better and better and better. Imagine it just gets 5 percent better every year, and compound that for decades. It is going to eventually meet or surpass the quality of actually seeing something in real life, and when we can do that, it will take off.
To get all that attention, we showed it to a lot of people, who other people trusted. Game developers like Gabe Newell, CEO of Valve, Cliff Bleszinski, former lead designer of Epic Games, John Carmack of id Software and others in that industry. By showing it to all these people, we were able to get testimonials and endorsements for our Kickstarter, and that was how we got all this attention.
So there are unlimited possibilities for this technology? Where would you want to see this technology go?
I know where it is going first, and the first place where it will be truly dominant in is gaming … The gaming industry is the only industry where the technology, the tools and the talent [is used] to build real-time 3D worlds in an effective and entertaining way. It’s the three T’s. Journalism doesn’t have the three T’s. The aerospace industry doesn’t have the three T’s. The architecture industry is just starting to get the three T’s, because they can make so much money using VR, pre-visualizing things before they are built, run through areas before you waste money putting something together. Gaming will be able to take off first because of that and also because gamers spend a bunch of money on early technology that is not quite consumer-ready. In the long run, the thing I’m most excited about is telepresence and teleworking. I have been all over the world. I have been on hundreds of international flights in the last seven years, going back and forth [to] China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan with our vendors, suppliers and manufacturers. Many of my meetings [consisted of] getting on an airplane, going somewhere, going to a bleak business hotel, into a conference room, shake hands, exchange cards and talk for a while and then leave. That could have been done in virtual reality. There are some things you will not be able to do in VR that you can do in real life, but you can simulate going into a conference room and load 3D models and all of that. I’m really excited because it can cut down on my travel time, it can cut down on emissions from going back and forth and let people become a lot more efficient. If you can have people from around the world and collaborate in the same space at the same time, that is going to be very powerful.