Facebook Reality Labs just experienced its first major executive exit since the pandemic began. Hugo Barra has announced that he's stepping down from his position as vice president of VR at Facebook.
Barra's move comes as a bit of a surprise as Facebook and its Oculus brand have been on a bit of a winning streak with the success of the Oculus Quest 2 (which features passthrough augmented reality features) and increased consumer interest in VR during pandemic lockdowns in 2020.
Previously, Barra (a member of the 2018 edition of the NR30) served as a VP for China mobile giant Xiaomi and as a VP leading Android for Google.
"Today [Monday, May 17] is my last day at Facebook Reality Labs, after 4 years working on projects that have been more exciting and more challenging than anything I've encountered in my career, with some of the brightest minds and kindest people I've ever had the pleasure to meet," wrote Barra in a Facebook post. "When Mark Zuckerberg approached me 5 years ago to come to Facebook to lead the Oculus team and work on virtual reality, I knew I was jumping into an ambitious journey to help build the next computing platform but I couldn't have imagined just how much this team would get done in just a few years."
Interestingly, in the middle of his farewell missive, Barra added a bit more fuel to the rumor mill surrounding Facebook's forthcoming AR smartglasses.
"Looking back at what we accomplished together with Oculus Go, Quest and Quest 2, I'm truly beyond proud," wrote Barra. "And I'm equally excited about what's yet to come, starting this year with the launch of Facebook's smart glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban, which will begin connecting the dots from today's VR headsets to tomorrow's AR glasses."
As for his focus on AR and VR, well, it looks like it's the end of the line for that career, too.
"So, what's next? I've been thinking a lot about what's happened in the last year as the world navigates this pandemic. I believe society is still poorly equipped with the tools people need to really understand our health and gain control over our health outcomes," wrote Barra. "Inspired by this reflection and after working in tech for over 20 years, I've decided to try something completely different — to dive into the deep unknown (for me) and explore the healthcare technology space. I hope to be able to apply what I've learned from working in the consumer tech industry to help solve meaningful problems in the healthcare world."
The loss of Barra is a blow to Facebook Reality Labs' mobile expertise, but the team appears to be growing rapidly, so the role Barra filled likely won't be vacant for very long.