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July 9, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Oculus VR boss on Carbon deal, Seattle expansion

Oculus VR is scoping out a larger presence in Seattle after last month’s acquisition of the Carbon Design Group.

Oculus VR image

Oculus VR image

“This wasn’t a downsizing exercise. This was, ‘Let’s upsize our internal engineering capabilities with the Carbon team and continue to expand beyond that,’ ” Chief Executive Brendan Iribe said in an interview.

Seattle-based Carbon, which has won awards for the design of products such as Microsoft mice, had been working quietly with Oculus VR on hardware design for some time. Oculus VR had become such a big client, the merger started to seem like an obvious move.

“Internally we got to the point where we were making comments and sometimes jokes that Carbon should just be part of Oculus,” Iribe said. “Then we paused at one pint and said let’s see what they think.”

Oculus image of Iribe

Oculus image of Iribe

Having a team of experienced hardware designers on hand should help Oculus as it finalizes the design of a virtual-reality headset for consumers. So far the company has released only prototypes aimed at developers.

Peter Bristol, Carbon’s creative director, said he’s “looking to grow our team within every discipline that we’ve got because the ask is so big and the challenge is so big.”

“It really is neat to prototype experiences that you’ve never experienced before,  creating hardware that supports that stuff is really exciting for the team,” he said.

The retail headset could be revealed at a developer conference Oculus VR is holding in Los Angeles in September, although Iribe declined to discuss the timetable for its unveiling and launch.

Meanwhile, Iribe is busy hiring. Combined with a group of leading virtual-reality developers hired away from Bellevue’s Valve Software this year, Oculus VR now has about 40 people in the Seattle area. Altogether the Irvine, Calif.-based company has “well over 100” employees.

The company has been on a growth tear since it was acquired by Facebook in March for $2 billion.

Earlier this week it acquired gaming middleware provider RakNet, based in Costa Mesa, Calif. The company also is expanding in Irvine, Dallas, San Francisco and Menlo Park, Calif., where a team will be located at Facebook’s headquarters.

In Seattle, Oculus VR is now spread between offices on the Eastside and near the University of Washington. It could make sense to put them alongside Facebook’s Seattle engineering team, which is reportedly searching for a larger office space, though Iribe said they don’t yet have plans in place to co-locate.

“We’re still digging into that,” he said.

Acquiring a game studio or two seems like a logical next step, although Iribe said that’s not an immediate priority. First the company wants to build its core product, he said.

Building games in-house is on the roadmap, though. Iribe noted that the company recruited Jason Rubin, co-founder of Sony studio Naughty Dog, to be head of its worldwide studios.

“Going out and acquiring additional game studios, we’d have to see one-by-one what made sense and when,” he said, adding that it could acquire other companies.

“We’re always looking for unique opportunities where we can extend the platform or the team to make the whole thing more successful.”



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