As a head-mounted display (HMD) designer at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies, Palmer Luckey earned a reputation for having the largest personal collection of HMDs in the world, and was a longtime moderator in Meant to be Seen (MTBS)’s discussion forums.
Through MTBS’ forums, Palmer developed the idea of creating a new head-mounted display that was both more effective than what is currently on the market, and inexpensive for gamers. To develop the new product, Luckey founded Oculus VR with Scaleform co-founders Brendan Iribe and Michael Antonov, engineer Jack McCauley, Nate Mitchell and Andrew Scott Reisse.
Coincidentally, John Carmack of id Software had been doing his own research on HMDs and happened upon Palmer’s developments as a fellow MTBS member.After sampling an early unit, Carmack favored Luckey’s prototype and just before the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Id announced that their future updated version of Doom 3, Doom 3 BFG Edition, would be compatible with head-mounted display units. During the convention, Carmack introduced a duct taped head-mounted display based on Palmer’s Oculus Rift prototype, which ran Carmack’s own software. The unit featured a high speed IMU and a 5.6-inch (14Â cm) LCDdisplay, visible via dual lenses that were positioned over the eyes to provide a 90 degrees horizontal and 110 degrees vertical stereoscopic 3D perspective. Carmack later left Id as he was hired as Oculus VR’s Chief technology officer.
In an early version of the company’s website, Palmer Luckey explained why he chose the name Oculus, writing:
Why the name â€œOculusâ€? Because it is the Latin word for â€œeyeâ€, and someone used the word in a meeting several months ago. I thought it was a nifty word, and was better than the alternative, â€œStepN2theGAMEâ€.
Following the demonstration of the Oculus Rift prototype at E3 in June 2012, on August 1, 2012, the company announced a Kickstarter campaign to further develop the product. Oculus announced that the “dev kit” version of the Oculus Rift would be given as a reward to backers who pledged $300 or more on Kickstarter, with an expected shipping date set of December 2012 (though they did not actually ship until March 2013). There was also a limited run of 100 unassembled Rift prototype kits for pledges over $275 that would ship a month earlier. Both versions were intended to include DoomÂ 3 BFG Edition, but Rift support in the game was not ready, so to make up for it they included a choice of discount vouchers for either Steam or the Oculus store. Within four hours of the announcement, Oculus secured its intended amount ofUS$250,000, and in less than 36 hours, the campaign had surpassed $1Â million in funding, eventually ending with $2,437,429. In January 2016, as a gesture of appreciation, Oculus announced it will give the 6,855 people who participated in the 2012 Kickstarter project a special-edition Oculus Rift one day before the new product goes on sale to the public on March 28, 2016.
Though Oculus VR had only released a development prototype of its headset, on March 25, 2014, Mark Zuckerberg announced via his Facebook profile that Facebook would be acquiring Oculus VR for US$2 billion, pending regulatory approval. The deal includes $400 million in cash and 23.1 million common shares of Facebook, valued at $1.6 billion, as well as additional $300 million assuming Facebook reaches certain milestones.
As of January 2015, the Oculus VR Headquarters has been moved from Irvine, California to Menlo Park, California, where Facebook’s Headquarters is also located. Oculus has stated that this move is for their employees to be closer to Silicon Valley.