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Oculus' elusive founder tells court: We didn't steal anything

In court, Palmer Luckey gives details about the early efforts of his VR startup, which soon enough got Facebook to buy it for $3 billion.

Palmer Luckey founded Oculus VR. On Wednesday, he sought to downplay early contributions by John Carmack.

James Martin/CNET

The hit game Doom didn't just change the computer industry when it debuted in 1993. It's also become the center of a lawsuit in 2017.

On the stand Wednesday, the wunderkind founder of the Oculus VR, Palmer Luckey, denied that early prototypes of his virtual reality headset were reliant on technology from Doom and its owner, ZeniMax Media. According to a report from UploadVR, Luckey downplayed his interactions with Doom's lead programmer, John Carmack.

Carmack is now CTO of Oculus.

In response to a question about whether a 2012 demo of his prototype Rift headset running ZeniMax's Doom game was a breakthrough moment, Luckey said, "I guess you could call it a breakthrough moment in awareness."

He responded similarly when asked whether Carmack's technological ideas contributed to the Rift. "I guess what he did is 'a' solution rather than 'the' solution," Luckey said, according to the report.

At the heart of the lawsuit is technology that helped create liftoff for virtual reality, one of the hottest gadget trends today. VR works, in one sense, merely because you stick a screen so close to your face that it tricks your brain into thinking you're in a computer-generated world. But there are many different technologies, from sensors to glass optics to software, that make it all possible, and ZeniMax claims Luckey took some of its technology in creating his.

Luckey and Oculus ultimately kindled the public's interest in VR, taking it from the world of fiction and Hollywood to real-world store shelves in a matter of only a few years. Even US President Barack Obama has gotten in on the acton.

Spokespeople for Oculus and ZeniMax didn't respond to requests for comment.

ZeniMax is best known for its subsidiary Id Software, whose Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake series of shooting games marked turning points in people's perceptions of what computers can do.

Luckey's comments came a day after his new boss, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, took the stand to generally downplay the suit. He hadn't even heard of ZeniMax before it filed its claims, Zuckerberg said, and his legal team didn't think the suit was credible.

Facebook bought Oculus three years ago for what turned out to be about $3 billion.

Luckey has generally stayed out of the public eye since The Daily Beast reported that he helped fund an online group to smear Hillary Clinton, who at the time was running for president of the United States. He even sat out the company's third annual developer conference, which took place in October.

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