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Facebook changes an Oculus division’s name, invents term “Facebook Reality”

On Monday, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash posted this image of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testing <em>something</em> at what was formerly known as Oculus Research. Now, these tests take place at Facebook Reality Labs.
On Monday, Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash posted this image of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testing something at what was formerly known as Oculus Research. Now, these tests take place at Facebook Reality Labs.

Nearly four years ago, Facebook paid roughly $2 billion to acquire the virtual reality company Oculus, yet since then, Oculus has continued operating as a formal, separate entity. All of the shared companies’ VR hardware and software have been sold and marketed under the “Oculus” brand, though sometimes with a “from Facebook” disclaimer.

That’s still the case, but Monday marked the first notable divergence from this trend. That’s when Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash announced a pretty significant pivot. “Oculus Research has a new name—starting today, we will be known as Facebook Reality Labs (FRL),” he wrote (using Facebook, no less).

His announcement immediately assured readers that “our focus on the future hasn’t changed.” Abrash used the post to point out that FRL had already been “helping Oculus and all of Facebook create trailblazing AR [augmented reality] and VR experiences, from what’s most affordable to leading edge.” He then described a future in which mixed-reality technologies will usher in “the second great wave of human-oriented computing.” Abrash did not lean into his division’s new name and describe any upcoming products as “FR” or “Facebook Reality” experiences.

The name change very well could have come last week during Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference (which included its fair share of Oculus news). It’s unclear why the companies chose to wait a week. Perhaps either side was worried about easy comparisons to Facebook’s handling of private customer data, what with the Cambridge Analytica scandal still resonating among users—but by that logic, Facebook wouldn’t have unveiled a data-hungry FB dating and matchmaking app, and yet here we are.