It doesn’t take a genius techie to notice the great strides being taken by social network giant Facebook in fields beyond their original social media stomping grounds. In addition to sites and apps such as Messenger, Instagram, and the business-oriented Workplace, Facebook has gone into gaming and virtual reality hardware as well, with their dedicated division Oculus VR developing the well-received – if prohibitively expensive and performance-intensive – recreational headset the Oculus Rift. With the departure of Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe last December, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has decided to bring in Brazilian tech maven Hugo Barra, late of Google and more recently of Chinese electronics rising star Xiaomi, to take up heading the company’s virtual-reality arm.

Proven pedigree

Zuckerberg couldn’t have come up with a better choice for the position on short notice. Barra was a real shoo-in for the tech career from the start, with time at MIT before joining Google in 2008, first at Google Mobile, then on to the Android development team in 2010. Here he would be involved in overseeing four Android OS versions, two Android smartphones and two tablets, along with Google Now and Google Voice Search. In 2013, Barra would go to China to serve as International Vice President for Xiaomi, by that point one of China’s fastest growing electronics manufacturers. His hiring was considered a masterstroke of company founder Lei Jun, and he would be at the forefront of Xiaomi’s expansion and leap onto the international market.

Barra would go on to announce the next line of his new company’s Apple-esque yet comparably affordable mobile gadgets – smartphones RedMi and Mi3, and the MiPad tablet. With carte blanche given to him on deciding which foreign markets Xiaomi would concentrate on, Barra posited inroads into Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and prospectively the US and Latin America.

However this Monday January 23 he announced his intent to leave the company, citing his growing detachment from his family still in the States as well as all his old Silicon Valley associates, a separation that has reportedly affected his health. A recent problem with Xiaomi regarding the over-aggressive market expansion that has become increasingly difficult to manage has also been considered a factor.

VR the next step

Regarding his hire of Barra, Zuckerberg remarks that the two of them are in agreement with a vision that sees virtual reality and augmented reality becoming the next prominent computing platform. They even symbolically illustrated their new setup by posting a photo on FB Wednesday January 25 with their virtual avatars together. While his position as chief of Oculus VR is set, Barra notes he will actually start working for the Facebook subsidiary after a needed break of two months, placing it in mid or late March 2017. He hopes to get started working on immersive VR and AR tech by then.