Instagram Leader Peter Deng Joins Oculus

by Ian Hamilton • January 12th, 2016

In case you missed it Facebook is now a consumer electronics company with a hit device that’s seeing so much interest orders are already delayed several months. If things continue, the Rift could be the first product of many from the social media giant as it becomes the newest player in that market. Facebook itself is poised for change as the company’s engineers turn from making software and services running on other people’s platforms, like Android and iOS, to making technologies that complement Facebook’s Oculus VR platform.

That’s the context in which Peter X. Deng, “Director of Product” at Facebook-owned Instagram, is leaving the photo service to become “Head of Product Management” at Oculus.

“There are very few companies that have the opportunity to define the future of how we interact with each other and with the world,” Deng wrote in a note on Facebook. “There are many exciting challenges ahead: innovating across hardware and software, defining new UI/UX paradigms, enabling a powerful platform for developers and users, and helping to mentor and grow a team of talented product managers.”

I’ve contacted Oculus to confirm where Deng sits in the hierarchy at Facebook’s VR unit (the vice president of product is Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell) and to identify what Deng worked on at Instagram. Deng’s LinkedIn profile says he worked in his position at Instagram since mid-2013 and that he’s been with Facebook since  2007 “helping build core applications on Facebook (messages, groups, photos, location, events).”

Instagram is responsible for Hyperlapse, an impressive app which uses the motion-tracking sensors on an iPhone to capture stabilized time-lapse videos that look like something out of a movie. The app has yet to debut on Android but there’s a lot of potential in it to become a tempting feature on a Gear VR-like phone that would sweeten the deal for people making the jump from iOS to Android to have quality Oculus VR experiences.

Facebook also recently hired several former Microsoft researchers for a “computational photography” research group.

Overall, it is still early days but there is enormous potential for Facebook to take the best parts of Google and Apple in creating the next great platform. In the meantime, Oculus and Facebook will continue to evolve as VR and related technologies, like Google’s Cardboard Camera app and 360-degree video streaming, ease the transition between mobile phones and VR. Put another way, there are a lot of things Deng could be working on at Oculus.