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Facebook’s Virtual Reality Business Gets a New Leader

January 30, 2017

AN FRANCISCO — Facebook’s virtual reality effort, including its big bet on the virtual reality goggles maker Oculus VR, has a new leader.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a post on Wednesday that Hugo Barra, a former executive at Google and the Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, was joining Facebook to lead its virtual reality business. The move puts to rest questions about who would assume direction of the efforts after Oculus ran into several hurdles, including an intellectual-property lawsuit and leadership changes.

“Hugo shares my belief that virtual and augmented reality will be the next major computing platform,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in the post. “Hugo is going to help build that future.”

Facebook paid $2 billion to acquire Oculus almost three years ago, with Mr. Zuckerberg proclaiming virtual reality the next big thing. While Oculus has released its virtual reality goggles and there is interest in the field, sales of the headsets are sluggish, and even Mr. Zuckerberg has said Facebook will probably need to invest an additional $3 billion in content and development over the next few years in hopes of seeing virtual reality take off.

Facebook’s desire to have a major stake in the technology undergirding virtual reality partly reflected the fact that it was not able to do so in mobile, even though it has managed to profit handsomely from mobile advertising. But the most capable virtual reality headsets are expensive and require powerful personal computers to support them. Breakout applications, including video games, have not materialized because developers have been reluctant to pour resources into an uncertain market.

While Facebook does not provide sales figures for the $599 Oculus Rift headset, which was released to the public last year, analysts believe they are slow. One research firm, SuperData Research, estimated the company sold only about 355,000 by the end of last year.

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