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Facebook Hires Former Google Exec Hugo Barra to Lead Virtual Reality Efforts

Facebook has hired former Google and Xiaomi exec Hugo Barra to lead its virtual reality efforts, including the company’s Oculus subsidiary.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the hire on his Facebook page Wednesday night, writing that Barra shared his belief “that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform. They’ll enable us to experience completely new things and be more creative than ever before. Hugo is going to help build that future, and I’m looking forward to having him on our team.”

Barra is joining Facebook from Chinese mobile phone upstart Xiaomi, where he served  as the VP of Global for a little over two years. Before that, Barra was VP of Android Product Management at Google, and one of the most prominent faces of the search giant’s mobile efforts.

Barra’s official job title at Facebook will be VP of virtual reality, but he will effectively taking over the job of former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe, who stepped back from his leadership position in October.

In that position, he will likely be looking to kickstart sales of the Oculus Rift VR headset, which were impacted by a bungled launch of the headset itself and a late shipment date of the Oculus Touch controller. Some analysts estimate  that Oculus sold fewer of its VR headsets last year than its two major competitors, Sony and HTC.

Barra’s experience with Android could possibly also help Facebook to further its reach in mobile VR. The company is currently supplying the software for that Samsung’s Gear VR headset, but those efforts are facing increased competition from Google. Under Barra, Facebook could conceivably strike deals with other handset manufacturers to bring Oculus VR software to additional devices.

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