Palmer Luckey

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Palmer Freeman Luckey
Palmer Luckey at SVVR 2014.jpg
Palmer Luckey at the 2014 Silicon Valley Virtual Reality (SVVR) Conference and Expo
Born (1992-09-19) September 19, 1992 (age 22)[1]
Long Beach, California[2]
Nationality United States
Occupation Founder at Oculus VR
Known for Inventor of Oculus Rift

Palmer Freeman Luckey (born 19 September 1992[1]) is the original founder of Oculus VR and inventor of the Oculus Rift,[3] a consumer virtual reality head-mounted display.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Luckey was born and raised in Long Beach, California[2] and grew up with three younger sisters,[6] a mother, and a father who worked at a car dealership.[7] As a child he was homeschooled by his mother, took sailing lessons,[8] and had an interest in electronics.[4][9] He took community college courses at Golden West College and Long Beach City College[6] beginning at the age of 14 or 15, and started at California State University, Long Beach[2] in 2010 as a journalism major.[7] He also wrote and served as the online editor for one of the university's student-run newspapers, Daily 49er.[10]

From ages 11 to 16, he experimented with a variety of high-voltage electronics projects including coil guns, Tesla coils, and lasers.[2] He built a PC costing tens of thousands of U.S. dollars[9] with an elaborate six-monitor setup.[11] He had an intense interest in virtual reality (VR), and built an extensive private collection of over 50 different head-mounted displays, often purchased at auction for a fraction of their original cost.[2][7][9] Headsets in his collection include the Vuzix iWear VR920, eMagin Z800 3DVisor,[9] Fakespace Push, Visionics LVES, and a heavily modified Sony HMZ-T1.[6]

To fund these projects, he earned at least US$36,000 by fixing and reselling damaged iPhones,[2] and was also a sailing coach and did boat repair.[6]

In 2009, he founded ModRetro Forums, a website for discussing modifications to old hardware devices such as game consoles and PCs.[3]

During his study at California State, he worked as an engineer at the Mixed Reality Lab (MxR)[12] at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) at the University of Southern California as part of a design team for cost-effective virtual reality.[2][3]

Palmer Luckey wearing an Oculus Rift DK1 (development kit 1) during a demo at SVVR 2014.

Development and growth of the Oculus Rift[edit]

Luckey was frustrated with the inadequacy of the existing head-mounted displays in his collection for gaming due to low contrast, high latency, and low field-of-view. In response, he created his first prototype at age 18 in his parents’ garage in 2011,[7] called CR1 and featuring a 90-degree field of view. Over the next 10 months he developed a series of prototypes exploring features like 3D stereoscopy, wireless, and extreme 270-degree field-of-view, while also decreasing size and weight. He posted regular updates on his work on MTBS3D, a forum website frequented by virtual reality enthusiasts.[9] His 6th-generation unit was named the "Rift," and was intended to be sold as a do-it-yourself kit on the Kickstarter crowdfunding website to fellow enthusiasts[13] rather than a pre-assembled consumer device, with a target of about 100 customers.[9] He first started Oculus VR in order to facilitate the Kickstarter campaign.[7]

John Carmack of id Software, a notable game developer and regular at MTBS3D, requested one of the prototype headsets, made improvements to it, and demoed a modified version of id Software's Doom 3 BFG Edition on the device at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012. With the resulting attention of thousands of people suddenly drawn to the Rift, Luckey dropped out of university to focus on it.[7]

He showed an early prototype to Brendan Iribe, a former executive of Gaikai and Scaleform, who described it as "dangling wires and circuit boards and duct tape and hot glue all over the place" and invested "a few hundred thousand" U.S. dollars in the Rift's Kickstarter campaign.[2] Iribe joined as Oculus VR's CEO, and Michael Antonov (former CTO of Scaleform) joined as chief software architect. Luckey also demoed the unit to Valve, and received Kickstarter endorsements from Valve's managing director Gabe Newell and prominent veteran Michael Abrash (now Chief Scientist at Oculus VR). During the Kickstarter campaign, Luckey demoed the Rift at QuakeCon 2012.[7]

The Kickstarter campaign was successful, raising US$2.4 million or 974% of its original target.[7] As a result, Oculus VR targeted a larger scale of units and expanded with more employees and an office space, but Luckey described his day-to-day process as not having "changed all that much," remaining a "slow plod towards making this thing a reality."[7] Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook in March 2014 for US$2 billion, and although his share is not public, as founder his share is expected to be valued at millions of dollars.[8] Today, he continues to work at Oculus VR on core VR technology.[14]

Palmer Luckey in flip-flops during a panel discussion at SVVR 2014.

Public image[edit]

Luckey has become "the face of virtual reality in gaming"[7] and a celebrity among virtual reality enthusiasts; however, he doesn't consider himself to be a celebrity.[14] He has a casual appearance: he is frequently barefoot, and prefers sandals to shoes even at trade shows and events.[8][9] He has been described as "polite" and "upbeat"[7] with "omnivorous curiosity."[9]


Palmer Luckey was the 2014 recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Youth category.


  1. ^ a b "Happy Birthday to Palmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus :D<3". Reddit. 19 Sep 2013. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Martens, Todd (8 June 2013). "Palmer Luckey’s Oculus Rift could be a virtual reality breakthrough". Hero Complex: Pop Culture Unmasked (Los Angeles Times). Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "People | Oculus Rift - Virtual Reality Headset for 3D Gaming". Oculus VR. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Freeman, Lary. "Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign: comment by grandfather". Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  5. ^ "Corporate Officers, Directors and C-Level Executives for OCULUS LLC". Wysk. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Lang, Ben (16 October 2012). "Q&A With Palmer Luckey, Creator of the Oculus Rift". Road to VR. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Purchese, Robert (11 July 2013). "Happy Go Luckey: Meet the 20-year-old creator of Oculus Rift". Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c Whitehouse, Kaja (26 March 2014). "Oculus founder, just 21, ‘never imagined’ $2B Facebook deal". New York Post. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Peckham, Matt (20 May 2014). "The Inside Story of Oculus Rift and How Virtual Reality Became Reality". Wired. Retrieved 15 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Daily 49er : Staff". Daily 49er. Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Graham, Jefferson (2014). "Talking Tech | The real world of Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey". USA TODAY. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Mixed Reality Lab (MxR)
  13. ^ Luckey, Palmer (21 Aug 2009). "Oculus "Rift" : An open-source HMD for Kickstarter". MTBS3D. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Palmer Luckey on Palmer Luckey: A VRFocus Interview". VRFocus. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 

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