Tag Archives: Facebook

Oculus, Facebook And Virtual Reality Book Author Set For Burbank Tech Talk Series

The recently released The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality will provide the backdrop for author Blake Harris and his conversation with tech entrepreneur Joe Chen, who was one of the first Oculus employees.

The discussion is presented in collaboration with the City of Burbank’s Tech Talk Series and will be held Thursday evening, February 28, at the Buena Vista branch of the Burbank Public Library.

Harris’ book talks about “how a teenager, Palmer Luckey, invented a more immersive and affordable VR device while living and working in a trailer that was parked in the driveway of his parents’ house in Long Beach,” explained Burbank Librarian Hubert Kozak.

Luckey named the VR device the Oculus Rift and a bidding war ensued for the new, accessible and affordable technology. Ultimately, Oculus was bought by Facebook, which has since released a series of the VR devices.

Original artwork for “The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality” by Bob Al-Greene. (Image courtesy Harper Collins)

“Industries in the gaming community were the first to spot the potential and were wowed by the device, tech financiers wanted to get in on the action as well, and a few years later the company Luckey founded was bought by Facebook for over 2 billion dollars,” explained Kozak.

“Gamers were the first consumers, but the device resuscitated and then galvanized VR technology and applications.  VR is now being used in training simulations, medicine, therapies, virtual tours, all kinds of diagnostic applications and it’s use continues to expand.”

“This book is a look at how a new tech invention makes the journey from prototype to viable consumer product, a behind the scenes look at what it takes to do this, and it’s a story filled with a lot of drama and intrigue,” continued Kozak. “It follows a naive young tech inventor as he swims in the shark infested waters of big money and high stakes technology development.”

“Like most people who have tried a modern day virtual reality headset, my immediate thought after trying it for the first time was ‘Wow! I’ve just seen the future!'” commented Harris. “But, as we know, an exciting product doesn’t necessarily equal a successful product, so I was very interested in getting to know the folks behind the scenes at Oculus and looking at this story from a business standpoint – tracing the journey from idea to prototype to product.”

Author Blake Harris talks with tech entrepreneur Joe Chen at the Burbank Public Library about his book “The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality.” (Photo By Katie Warner, Courtesy Harper Collins.)

“That said, business stories can often be dry; so it was incredibly helpful to me as a writer to learn about (and then reveal to readers) the backstory and behind-the-scenes journey of Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey, whose rise from teenager dreamer to successful inventor/entrepreneur made for an incredible modern day ‘American Dream’ tale.”

“I like to write character-driven true life stories that can be accessible to anybody; meaning that even if you don’t know the first thing about VR, I still want the story to resonate with you,” Harris explained. “The key to that, I believe, is incredible access, and it took me about 14 months to gain the access from Oculus and Facebook to tell this story in the way that I had hoped.”

“That access began in February 2016 and continued until April 2018. So (spoiler alert!) Palmer Luckey was fired in the middle of that time; and, as readers will see, completely disrupted the story that I thought I was telling – but, in the end, made for a more interesting and urgent story (especially with how much of our digital lives are controlled by Facebook).”

“For the most part, I would say that the major players were forthcoming,” Harris also said. “Perhaps not so much initially at first; but, in the end, I spent 3.5 years working on this story and was able to develop a great rapport with many of those involved.”

“That said, I would note that after the unexpected firing of Palmer Luckey, many of the players who had been very forthright with me ended up changing their tune – either by speaking with me less; or, in some unfortunate cases, outright lying to me.”

Tech investor and entrepreneur Chen will interview Harris for the Burbank Tech Talk event. Chen has cofounded a new company, Anduril, with Luckey.

Image Courtesy Harper Collins

‘Throughout my writing the book, Joe was a constant source of inspiration, humor and fair-and-balanced perspective,” said Harris. “It also became clear to me, very early on, that Joe has a get-it-done-attitude that is so critical to helping a young startup thrive.”

What does Harris think of the current impact VR has had in the world and where does he see the technology going forward?

“I’ll be honest and say that when I started working on this book 3.5 years ago, I anticipated that virtual reality would be more successful than it is now,” Harris said. “Not by a lot – I always thought it would be a relatively slow adoption – but I thought there would still be strong hype for VR amongst consumers and increasing investment from content-makers.”

“Since the release of the major VR headers in 2016 (Oculus, HTC and Sony), the excitement and momentum around this technology has certainly slowed down. But I’m still very bullish about the long-term impact of virtual reality.”

“I believe it’ll still take 5-10 years to really reach a mainstream crowd, but in the meantime I think it’ll continue to do well with gamers and, in the interim, I think there will be great value in using VR for training simulations in the enterprise space (as well as, hopefully, the education space),” he added.

The Burbank Tech Talks Series is composed of networking events, speaker summits and series, including a Pitch Fest, explained Marissa Minor, Economic Development Analyst with the Community Development Department.

“Fostering the entrepreneurial community is a key component of our City’s Economic Development strategy as we seek to attract and engage new thinkers and innovators in Burbank,” she said. “The Burbank Tech Talk Series is one way that we support this innovative and growing community.”

Joe Chen, co-founder of Anduril, interviews Blake Harris at the Burbank Public Library on Thursday, February 28. (Photo Courtesy Anduril)

“Our goal is to ensure that our companies can compete in today’s marketplace, and we are hopeful that events like the Burbank Tech Talks will continue to provide businesses with insight and networking opportunities for the future,” Minor also said.

Harris and Chen discuss The History of the Future: Oculus, Facebook, and the Revolution That Swept Virtual Reality on Thursday, February 28, at 7:00 p.m.

The Buena Vista Branch of the Burbank Public Library is located at 300 N. Buena Vista Street in Burbank. The program is free to the public and plenty of free parking is available on site.

Schiff Introduces Legislation to Protect Facebook Passwords from Prospective Employers

This week, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) helped introduce the Password Protection Act Of 2012, legislation aimed at curbing the growing practice of employers requiring prospective or current employees to provide access to password-protected accounts as a condition for employment. According to news reports across the country, this is a cause of great concern especially among students set to graduate college this month. Schiff introduced the bill with eleven other co-sponsors led by Reps. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Ed Perlmutter (D-CO).
“This common sense legislation would prevent employers from mandating that job applicants or current employees disclose confidential passwords to their social networks, like Facebook. Someone’s personal page should be just that – personal,”said Schiff. “These online pages are a modern version of the diary, and people should be free to share their digital diaries or keep them completely private – as they choose. But job applicants should not be required to turn over their passwords and have their privacy violated in order to secure employment. Especially in this tough economic environment, we should be removing impediments for job seekers, not creating them.

 

“Earlier this year, I was proud to support an amendment that would have accomplished these goals as well, but it was unfortunately voted down on the House floor. I will continue to support privacy protections like this one.”

 

Recent news reports have highlighted a disturbing increase in the number of employers asking prospective employees to hand over usernames and passwords to their personal accounts on websites like Facebook. Some job applicants are even being asked during interviews to log into these websites and allow interviewers to browse the applicant’s profile, acquaintances, and other information. Others are being asked to provide passwords on job applications.

 

The Password Protection Act of 2012 enhances current law to prohibit employers from compelling or coercing employees into providing access to their private accounts:

 

  • Prohibits an employer from forcing prospective or current employees to provide access to their own private account as a condition of employment.

 

  • Prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against a prospective or current employee because that employee refuses to provide access to a password-protected account.

 

  • The Password Protection Act only prohibits adverse employment related actions as a consequence of an employee’s failure to provide access to their own private accounts. It preserves the rights of employers to:

 

o   Permit social networking within the office on a voluntary basis.

o   Set policies for employer-operated computer systems.

o   Hold employees accountable for stealing data from their employers.

o   Employers that violate the Password Protection Act may face financial penalties.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Priorities and Perspective Go a Long Way

Last week, the Burroughs girls’ soccer team dropped two games to its crosstown rivals, the Burbank Bulldogs. Some wrongly blamed the losses on the school’s decision to suspend three players for the Pacific League finale on February 9 after they had directed obscenities and even made threats — including one confirmed incident where a player made threats on Facebook — towards a member of the Burbank team.

The next day, the two teams met again in a match-up to determine who would earn the fourth and final guaranteed playoff spot out of the league. Two players were reinstated but one player remained ineligible to play because she remained suspended from school. Amongst the distraction, Burroughs fell to Burbank, 2-1. Again, at least a few grumbles and rants were heard on the west side of town near the Burroughs campus.

Hours earlier, another Pacific League school was scrambling to deal with a much bigger loss; the loss of a young life. A sophomore at Crescenta Valley High School had jumped from a campus roof top to his death. He was 15. Reports had surfaced by the weekend that the student was a victim of bullying. Funeral services were held yesterday. This tragedy should put things into real perspective for all of us.

We love our sports for the way they at times mirror life, but they are not life. In acting as educational leaders and as adults who must set the example for nearly 3,000 students on the Burroughs campus, the school officials did the only sensible thing.

Having worked with the administration at Burbank High on several discipline matters this school year, I can assure you that they would have done the exact same thing had one of their students made any sort of threat towards a Burroughs student. After all, the two sites — while rivals — are also fixtures that represent the city of Burbank and the Burbank Unified School District.

As many of you know, I am a school administrator with the district. Sadly, even at the middle school level far too much of our time gets spent following parent or student reports of threats and harassment on Facebook. This is a part of our norm even after countless presentations to students and parents about the dangers out there in cyberspace. Incidents continue even though our school incorporates the “Character Counts” program as a part of our campus culture. With its 873 million users — many of which are under 18 — Facebook is the ultimate stage for peer pressure.

The elementary schools have the Peace Builders Program and the secondary schools recently formed a committee of administrators from each site determined to take action against bullying.

Jordan Middle School recently launched a campaign called STOP IT! (Stop Shoving/Teasing/Offending/Pushing/Intimidating/Teasing) aimed at stopping bullying on their campus. The campaign is led by students who are part of the STARs (Students and Teachers Against Ridicule).

Even united, the school sites and the homes face an uphill battle.

Imagine a student with 200 “friends” posting something negative about another on the site. Now imagine those 200 “friends” with “friends” of their own each commenting that they “like” what has just been posted. See how quickly a rumor, a threat or an obscene picture can spread through cyberspace?

The impact can do serious damage. That is the message parents and school officials need to continue to get out. The other reality that needs to hit home is that nothing is ever really private on the internet, which is of course public domain. Once something is posted it is out there for all to see.

Think back to your days in secondary school and then picture your class bully. What does he look like? Chances are you pictured the real-life equivalent to the character Nelson on the animated series “The Simpsons.” In your school age experience the bully was easy to spot, he was the biggest kid in the hallway trying to stuff a smaller kid into a locker.

Today, bullying comes in many forms and text messaging and social media sites are frequently used. Both are all too real and painful.

Court rulings on these issues are in their infancy, but thus far they support a school’s and district’s obligation to protect all of its students — even at the expense of the privacy of an individual. In addition, California Ed-Code has a violation on “bullying” recently expanded to include cyber bullying.

Schools can and should and must take disciplinary action for students who make threats or bully via the internet. And although disciplinary action should be taken, the other crucial piece is for the partnership between the home and school to take advantage of those teachable moments. The lesson learned last week should be that sometimes in the heat of competition in sports we forget that in the end we are all on the same team.