Palmer Watch Day 117: It’s Over

Palmer Watch Day 117: It’s Over
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Our watch has ended.

After 117 days basically in hiding, Oculus VR founder and former Facebook golden child Palmer Luckey has been spotted in the wild — specifically in a federal courtroom in Dallas where Facebook is the subject of a $US2 billion ($6 billion) intellectual property lawsuit.

Image: AP/Art: Sam Wooley

Luckey dropped off the map following the revelation that he had been funding a pro-Trump political organisation that used internet memes to spread its message. After apologising, he basically went underground. Once one of virtual reality’s most prominent and outspoken evangelists, Luckey had stopped tweeting, posting to Facebook or making any kind of public statements at all.

Sporting a blue suit and a pink tie, Luckey joined Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Oculus CTO John Carmack and former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe in court yesterday for the jury trial of the lawsuit bought by ZeniMax, the owners of video game developers Bethesda Softworks and id Software. Court rules have prevented anyone from getting a photo of Luckey, and he and other execs have used a side entrance to get to and from the proceedings.

ZeniMax alleges that Oculus stole trade secrets and that Carmack stole source code from Zenimax when he took the job as CTO at Oculus. Facebook bought Oculus for $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) in 2014. Luckey briefly began his testimony on Tuesday, and will continue on Wednesday.

For the first 80 days of Palmer Watch, Facebook wouldn’t even admit that Luckey still worked for the company. Luckey also skipped out on last year’s Oculus developer conference, where he had previously given a keynote talk, and didn’t make any public statements when Oculus finally shipped its much anticipated Touch controllers in early December.

While Zuck was quick to jump to the defence of Facebook board member Peter Thiel when Thiel became a vocal supporter of Trump, the company’s silence on Luckey was deafening. Developers for Oculus had threatened to pull out of the platform and it became clear that Facebook’s PR strategy was for Palmer to lay low for a while. Then, in mid-December, Facebook apparently decided the “it’s all blown over” time had come and announced Luckey would take on a new role at Oculus. The company still hasn’t elaborated on what that new role is and it’s not as if Facebook has chosen to push Luckey back into the spotlight — he’s being forced to testify.

While our watch has ended, we won’t have to wait long to hear more about Palmer. Lawyers for ZeniMax are disputing the well publicised story that Luckey built the Oculus Rift in his parent’s garage. ZeniMax lawyers allege that Carmack was key to the development of the Rift, using software he had worked on while at id Software. A jury verdict is expected some time next week.

This has been Palmer Watch.