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Running Oculus and possibly losing your mind in the process

Introduction

I imagine that those who find themselves at the top of the chain at Oculus have their good days and their bad days.

On a good day, it is easy to think that they must live a pretty thrilling existence. They are leading a team and running a company that is currently in a dazzling spotlight, working on technology that hold the promise to change a great deal in the way we interact with computers and the world itself. Sitting down to be interviewed by Wired, you must undoubtedly know that you've "arrived". There must be joy in that.

That would be on a good day.

The good days are likely accompanied by some rather bad days. Sleepless mornings at 3AM, unable to sleep and filled with worry.

Since 2007 and Apple's yearly hardware refresh cycle, a new expectation has been created of hardware companies. You aren't just expected to incrementally improve anymore, there is an expectation that a "hot" hardware company can deliver earth shattering innovation like clockwork. You aren't just expected to improve. You need to surprise and delight. Over and over again.

How often? Once a year, at the very least. If you are Samsung, you're pushing for a 6 month cycle. Sustainable? No. Not a chance in hell, but that's where we are at right now in the industry.

So again, back to bed and imagine you are running Oculus and wake up one day to find yourself bound to this heavy train of expectation. Hurtling down the track as your "year of innovation grace period" speeds on by. You look over your prototypes, all very reasonable devices made of glass, plastic, code sweat and ingenuity. Is it enough?

Of course not. It never will.

Somehow, God help you, you need to give the public what they've been told to expect from virtual reality. I'd use Snowcrash, Star Trek and the Matrix as the low hanging, popular culture examples. All of them offer a VR experience that is every bit as good as reality in terms of fidelity and freedom. No matter what Oculus comes up with, there will always be a long list of gotcha's surrounding each iteration:

I imagine over time and trial, Oculus will be less and less likely to say very much about anything out of fear of fueling expectations. Who could blame them for trying to protect their sanity?

VR development shares a resemblance to the exploration of outer space. A challenge that threatens to humble even the most formidable minds among us. You are faced with a task of unlimited scope and as much complexity as you are willing to bite off and chew.

So how do you fall back asleep? How do you rest comfortably when burdened by such an undertaking?

Perhaps it could be in the thought that this is a long, immense and shared journey that we've embarked on. One that will certainly be filled with a litter of failed experiments, dead ends and endless delay. It also will be filled with some exceedingly beautiful, awe filled moments that will constantly remind us all of why we are doing this despite the struggle and stress.

If God built the earth in 7 days, can we not afford to give Oculus a few years to build a universe?


- by Robert McGregor, September 2014