News: Former Google Augmented Reality Engineering Lead Takes Over Facebook's Portal Hardware Team

Former Google Augmented Reality Engineering Lead Takes Over Facebook's Portal Hardware Team

It looks like Facebook really likes Google's augmented reality leadership talent, as the social media giant has hired away another employee from the AR and VR team at Mountain View to lead its team for a product that brings Facebook's AR platform into homes.

On Wednesday, Facebook's Rafa Carmargo (also a former Google product engineering leader) announced on Twitter that he will take over Facebook's AR and VR hardware team, with Ryan Cairns, formerly the senior director of engineering for AR and VR at Google, assuming leadership of the team working on the Portal video calling product line.

According to TechCrunch, Carmargo took over the Portal team last month as part of a reorganization of Facebook's Building 8 advanced technology research team. Meanwhile, NR30 member Michael Abrash continues to oversee the Facebook Reality Labs research team.

About this time last year, Facebook hired Cairn's Google colleague, Nikhil Chandhok, to take over Facebook's AR camera platform. Chandhok formerly oversaw Google's mobile AR efforts, from Tango to ARCore, and developed the company's AR strategy for wearables and smartphones.

Now Carmargo, who led the Building 8 product engineering efforts that led to the launch of Portal, will apply his skills toward developing VR and AR hardware, which includes plans for smartglasses.

Facebook now employs two former Google leaders who led ARCore efforts. Image by Google/YouTube

As for Cairns' new Portal position, it's worth noting that he has experience in growing Google's ChromeOS and Chromebook efforts and shipping headset hardware via Google's Daydream product line.

However, it's Cairn's most recent experience at Google leading the teams working on Google's mobile AR efforts, namely ARCore and Lens, that point to the future of Portal's camera view into user's spaces.

Facebook is integrating its Spark AR platform into Portal. Image via Facebook

"We're also incorporating augmented reality (AR) effects — powered by our Spark AR platform — to make calls even more fun and interactive," the company's website announced during Portal's launch. "Story Time brings stories to life with custom sound effects and visuals. Smart Camera helps you read a fun story via a simple teleprompter, perfectly framed, while your loved ones on the other side watch as your face and voice transform into the story's characters."

In recent times, Cairn has demonstrated that he can deliver AR products for public release and iterate quickly, as evidenced by multiple ARCore releases throughout 2018, so it's likely Portal will quickly gain new AR features. Moreover, Portal serves as a trojan horse for introducing mainstream consumers to its overall AR platform in the coming months.

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Cover image via Facebook

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