Culture

Hugo Barra joins Facebook to lead VR team

At one time, Barra headed up Google's Android efforts. Now, after three years with China's up-and-comer Xiaomi, he's headed back to Silicon Valley.

Facebook's VR team just got a new boss, and it's former Xiaomi exec Hugo Barra.

Barra, who had been serving as global lead of the Chinese smartphone manufacturer, announced his departure earlier this week to return to Silicon Valley. He quickly found a new gig as vice president of virtual reality at Facebook.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement Wednesday in a Facebook post, citing Barra's track record at Google and Xiaomi.

"I've known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he's worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people," Zuckerberg said.

Barra joined Xiaomi in 2013 after heading up Google's Android product development. While the Chinese company has expanded beyond its home country during Barra's tenure, it's been keeping carefully aloof from the US market. Its appearance at the CES 2017 show in Las Vegas earlier this month, though it included gadget unveilings, was more about getting exposure on a grand stage.

Facebook has been a leading proponent of virtual reality technology, a point driven home by the $3 billion or so it spent to acquire headset maker Oculus VR a few years back. VR, which tricks your brain into thinking you've been dropped into a computer-generated world, is just now coming into its own after years as little more than a sci-fi pipe dream.

The holiday season just passed marked the first time that high-end VR headsets from Oculus, Sony, HTC and other major players were on store shelves.

"Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform," Zuckerberg said. "They'll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before."

On his end, Barra said in a separate Facebook post that he's starting the new job in a couple of months and looks forward to "building the future of immersive technology."

Barra will oversee all of Facebook's VR efforts, which includes its Oculus team.

Originally published Jan. 25 at 8:20 p.m. PT.
Update Jan. 26 at 8:12 a.m. PT: Added background material on Barra and on Facebook's VR efforts.

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