In the summer of 2012 I was working at the Orange County Register as a technology reporter when I heard about a startup founded by a teen from Long Beach, California. The Oculus Rift raised a ton of money on Kickstarter and a local tech executive, Brendan Iribe, was coming on as CEO. He set up offices in Irvine right in the center of my coverage area.
I wrote about VR for the first time a few months earlier with Disney’s fully immersive CAVE, but the Rift was something different. This was VR people could afford. A few months later I made it to the Oculus office and got a demo of an early Rift proof-of concept in November 2012.
I spotted Palmer Luckey during that meeting and asked him why he was so interested in VR. His answers came out almost before I could finish my questions.
“It’s the future,” he told me. “It’s the Matrix.”
He also offered me a quote that perfectly summed up the state of the technology and the contribution his company was about to make:
“A lot of things we’re doing weren’t invented by us. They were invented by other people. And we happen to have the luck to be in the right decade to make it happen.”
The plan was clear from that moment. Luckey had the hardware and Iribe would rally the game industry to build the games. For two years I came back to my editors asking to do story after story about VR. Among other stories, I dived into practical uses for VR, wrote about the tragic death of their co-founder, went hands-on with DK1 multiplayer in what became EVE: Valkyrie and chronicled Luckey’s telling of the Rift creation with a lede stating “teenager Palmer Luckey made a connection that just might change the world.”
Then, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came down to Irvine to see the Rift and then quickly bought the company, I landed my first front page article about VR. My follow-up piece asking the relevant questions was front and center on the cover the following day. Now people were paying attention. I didn’t have to fight so hard to write stories about VR after Zuckerberg legitimized my ravings.
That summer the Register suffered deep financial setbacks and by all indications was headed toward bankruptcy (which it did quite recently). With my wife also employed by this company, I didn’t see the sense in tying all of our income there and took a buyout. As an intern at this newspaper I was posting things online for them and I bought the first iPhone with an entire paycheck. With my severance, I bought the parts for a PC and a Rift DK2.
For the last year and a half I’ve been writing freelance, reviewing for the San Diego Union-Tribune, for example, the first Gear VR innovator’s edition. Earlier this year I co-created a weekly newsletter chronicling the march toward consumer VR and tried a magazine editing job to support the family. The magazine editing just distracted me from my real interest finding a job where I could write full-time exploring all the different ways mixed reality technology is likely to change human thought and communication. Amid all this I also welcomed my son to this world, who is sleeping on my chest as I write this post.
I was in the recovery room with my wife and son when I agreed to start contributing regularly to UploadVR. Will Mason offered me the opportunity to regularly communicate with the engineers, researchers and developers exploring this technology during the last final push toward the first consumer products. I’ve written more than 150 posts for UploadVR over the last few months. Sometimes I write light, like telling people how to hide VR porn, and sometimes I go heavy, like communicating with NYU’s Ken Perlin about his ultra-long view for mixed reality’s impact on humanity or considering what VR could mean for the isolation experienced by hospitalized children. Sometimes I’m just having fun talking to people at the cutting edge of technology, like asking John Carmack about mobile positional tracking or performing my first interview in mobile VR.
Now UploadVR has the resources to bring me on full-time as an editor and writer alongside Will to work on the next phase of the company’s expansion in 2016. For me, this is the realization of a growing hope to work exclusively focused on mixed reality technology. Alongside Ben Lang at RoadToVR and Will here at Upload, I get to become one of the world’s first editors and writers dedicated exclusively to covering AR and VR.
Whether you are a professional in the field, a dedicated gamer or you still have no idea why someone would be so interested in this technology, I want to hear from you. My goal is to write clearly using accessible language while covering the things people need, and want, to know about how mixed reality technologies will entertain, educate and connect us in new ways. So please reach out with your questions, ideas and apps.
You can contact me the following ways: