Hugo Barra is ditching Zhongguancun for 1 Hacker Way.
Three days after Barra announced he was leaving Xiaomi as global vice president, he confirmed today (Jan. 26) that he will join Facebook as its vice president of virtual reality, bringing along his understanding of hardware manufacturing and distribution as well as his background in software. Prior to his role at Xiaomi, Barra was Google’s vice president of product management for Android.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first broadcast the news on his personal Facebook page. Fittingly, his post had an image of the two—Barra in China and Zuckerberg in California—meeting in virtual reality.
Barra’s exit comes after three and a half years at the hardware maker, where he was charged with bringing Xiaomi’s products to India and Southeast Asia. The company enjoyed some success in the former market, but overall, sales stagnated during the course of his tenure. When Barra announced his departure from Xiaomi, he had cited health reasons, but his exit inevitably appears symbolic of Xiaomi’s failed ambitions to become a global tech giant.
Meanwhile, China’s VR industry is arguably moving faster than that of the US. Brands are competing to sell commodity Google Cardboard-esque headsets en masse at rock-bottom prices. Businesses large and small are experimenting with VR cafes and “experience stores” to take the technology mainstream. Xiaomi itself released two budget VR headsets in 2016, each selling for less than $30. VR remains a niche technology for most consumers, and Facebook is aggressively working to tap unrealized potential beyond hardcore gaming.