Facebook taps ex-Google, Xiaomi exec Barra to lead VR efforts

Hugo Barra. Credit: leweb3/Wikimedia

Hugo Barra, the former Google executive who recently left Beijing-based phonemaker Xiaomi, will join Facebook to head up the company’s Oculus team.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the news Wednesday in a post, noting that Barra was joining him in virtual reality from China while he was posting the news of the hiring.

“I've known Hugo for a long time, starting when he helped develop the Android operating system, to the last few years he's worked at Xiaomi in Beijing bringing innovative devices to millions of people,” said Zuckerberg in the post. “Hugo shares my 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.”

RELATED: Sony, Google, Facebook and others announce Global Virtual Reality Association

Facebook’s efforts to gain foothold in the emerging virtual reality market, including the launch last year of its Oculus Rift headset, pit the social media giant against other headset makers including HTC, Samsung and Google. One advantage the headsets from those OEMs have is the ability to work with a smartphone rather than an expensive PC.

But last year, all those companies along with Sony and Acer, teamed up to form the Global Virtual Reality Association to promote VR technology.

“The organization will foster dialogue between public and private stakeholders in VR around the world and make education and training material available to the public. Working groups will be organized around important topics for the industry, enabling us to produce relevant research and guidance,” the GVRA said on its website. “We will also host and participate in international discussions on important topics in VR to shape the public discussion on the technology. Ultimately, the group will develop best practices and share them openly.”

RELATED: How Facebook Live and Periscope stack up in early live 360 streaming

On the VR content side, Facebook and rival social media platform Twitter have been experimenting early on with live 360-degree content.

Facebook announced its live 360 feature last year with initial partner National Geographic, which helped produce a video of the Mars Desert Research Station facility in Utah.