INSIDE OCULUS: Rare photos from the early days of the virtual reality pioneer

OculusJack McCauleyJack McCauley back in 2012

Jack McCauley’s research lab in Livermore, California, is hallowed ground for any virtual reality fan.

McCauley was a founding engineer at Oculus VR, the virtual reality headset maker that Facebook bought for about $US2 billion last year. He told Business Insider that the team filmed Rift’s original Kickstarter video in his facility and designed much of its first development kit, DK1, there, too. 

After hustling away on the headset for about two years, McCauley left Oculus shortly after the acquisition, but continues to work on new virtual reality projects in his lab today.

Take a look at these early Oculus pics, and learn more about what McCauley’s doing now:

 

The Oculus Rift team filmed much of the video for its blockbuster Kickstarter campaign in McCauley's Lab.

Jack McCauley

Here they are watching the finished video as the project racked up cash. In this picture it's at nearly $1 million from 3,905 contributors, and would eventually swell to $2.4 million from 9,522 of them.

Jack McCauley

CEO Brendan Iribe and founder Palmer Luckey just chilling in the lab.

Jack McCauley

Once Oculus soared past its Kickstarter goal, it was really time to drill down. Here's McCauley and Oculus' current VP of product, Nate Mitchell, with the owner of the factory that made the first prototype.

Jack McCauley

And here's Mitchell testing one of those early prototypes out.

Jack McCauley

To achieve accurate head tracking, the first model of the Oculus headset had an orientation sensor that included a gyroscope. 'You know what we used to calibrate the gyros?' McCauley asks. 'A turntable. It turns out that a record player has very precise velocity control. It was more stable than a commercially available calibration instrument.'

Jack McCauley

Much of the headset's early development happened in China. Oculus office manager Rita Chen stands with McCauley (third from left) and the Oculus China team.

Jack McCauley

Here's an inside look at the company office in China.

Jack McCauley

McCauley remembers his trips to Asia as incredibly exciting, with a lot of hard work (and some hard partying mixed in for good measure).

Jack McCauley

McCauley snapped this pic of Iribe hanging out in his (very nice!) car back in 2012.

Jack McCauley

Oculus hired John Carmack, the co-creator of the insanely popular game Doom, to be its chief technology officer in 2013.

Jack McCauley

Here's McCauley ready to go into the 'clean room' in the optics lab in China that made the lenses for Oculus' second development kit, the DK2.

Jack McCauley

Here's the crew at the camera assembly plant for DK2.

Jack McCauley

That's Jack in the blue.

Jack McCauley

And this is one of the first DK2 units produced. The kits went on sale for $350 in mid-2014.

Jack McCauley

'It's amazing how much buzz there is around virtual reality now,' he said. 'I'm so fortunate that I'm still working on it, and that I was involved at Oculus. Everyone there worked really, really hard.'

Jack McCauley

Here's McCauley testing out Oculus competitor, the HTC Vive. 'It was fantastic,' he says. 'I was blown away.' Although McCauley hasn't tested out the latest version of the Oculus yet, he believes that it and the Vive are the frontrunners in virtual reality...

Jack McCauley

But he's not without his criticisms.

That's why he continues to tinker with different VR-related ideas in his lab. He believes there's a better, cheaper, more effective way for virtual reality headsets to handle tracking.

Jack McCauley

'I'm still working on VR and I can't stop,' he says. 'I'm trying to find ways to improve current designs.'

Jack McCauley

Before Oculus, McCauley was the chief engineer on the GuitarHero video game. Those music roots are very evident in the foyer of his lab.

Jack McCauley

We'd love to know more about what it's like inside Oculus -- in the past, and now. Reach out to [email protected] with stories and tips.

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