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Oculus exec Mary Lou Jepsen resigns to cure diseases

Departure comes amid exploding interest in taking headset-wearing users to computer-generated environments.

Mary Lou Jepsen is leaving Facebook and Oculus with the intention of using wearables to help cure diseases.

Mary Lou Jepsen, a key figure in Facebook's virtual reality ambitions, is leaving the social-networking giant after a little more than a year on the job to focus on curing diseases.

Jepsen, the executive director of engineering at Facebook and the head of display tech at its Oculus virtual reality arm, announced her resignation Thursday evening at the Anita Borg Women of Vision Awards, in Santa Clara, California. Jepsen said she is turning her attention to curing diseases using MRI images in the form of a consumer wearable.

"I'm setting off in a new direction," she told a room full of attendees. "I never stopped dreaming of how to create a wearable to communicate with our thoughts, how to do this at consumer electronics pricing. I want to get this to every doctor in the world."

Jepsen is no stranger to charitable causes. She was a co-founder of the One Laptop Per Child, an initiative that aims to provide low-cost laptops to children in developing countries, as well as lead inventor and architect of the $100 laptop.

Oculus applauded the direction Jepsen had chosen.

"We wish Mary Lou all the best as she pursues her passion to change the world with next-generation medical technologies," Oculus said in a statement. "We're very excited to see what she invents next."

Jepsen's departure comes as Facebook ramps up its emphasis on virtual reality, a burgeoning field that promises to transport headset-wearing users to immersive, computer-generated environments, be it floating through outerspace or walking with dinosaurs.

But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has much grander visions. He sees a future where education, communication and entertainment take place inside virtual worlds that we all see through these headsets.

Before joining the virtual reality startup acquired by Facebook two years ago, Jepsen spent three years running the Display Division at Google X, the company's advanced projects lab. While at Google, Jepsen also worked on two of the lab's so-called "moon shot" projects, reporting directly to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, according to her resume.

CNET's Rochelle Garner contributed to this report.