Business and politics

On Sept. 22nd, we posted on Twitter stating that NewtonVR would not be supporting Oculus Touch in light of Palmer Luckey’s actions. Oculus Connect is over now, and the questions from developers have piled up: are we sticking to our decision? We’ve had time to reflect and have come to a handful of conclusions that we’d like to share with everyone.

We still don’t condone Palmer Luckey’s behavior

At Tomorrow Today Labs, we are trying to run our business based on values that we believe in. We want to be as transparent as possible with our employees, contractors, partners, and customers. We believe diversity in the workplace is extremely important, not just to the people it affects, but to the products we produce and the impact we have on the community as a whole. Running a company that values diversity is not trivial when taken seriously.

Sometimes, valuing diversity in a management role means that we are confronted with how wrong or misinformed our opinions are, and we then have to address the consequences of our actions and take responsibility for them. Because of the weight of that responsibility, leadership can be a tough role for anyone. Our community looks to us to set the tone for how they should treat each other. And when we are wrong, we should apologize for hurtful actions that we took or things that we said.

The people and organizations that Palmer Luckey has supported are bigots. They believe that an entire religion needs to be punished for the actions of a few. They believe that women should be viewed as objects. They believe that the color of your skin dictates your value as a human being. This is not fostering diversity — this is encouraging bigotry.

He said that this is not a reflection of his true views but it’s hard to understand where that could reconcile with those that were published by The Daily Beast. Mistakes can be forgiven, but only after responsibility has been taken. He has apologized for the damage this has done to Oculus but not for the words he told The Daily Beast he posted, and not for the support for a bigoted organization. Because of that, Palmer as an individual will not get our support.

Oculus still has diversity work to do

Oculus, for better or worse, was bought by Facebook, and is now part of a multi-billion dollar company. This has afforded them the ability to help launch virtual reality into relevancy, and to hire some of the brightest minds in the industry to build the future of technology. But it has also forced Oculus into an organizational structure that does not value transparency and struggles with diversity. And while we would love to hear them openly denounce the bigotry that one of their founders supports, we recognize that it is not a likely outcome at this point. Doing so would call attention back to what happened and invite additional criticism.

We recognize that corporate culture takes time to adapt to modern-day values, and we can’t expect all companies that we deal with to value this level of transparency. Instead of talking about what we’d like them to say, let’s reflect on what Oculus has done publicly:

  • They held a 3-day conference where they focused on the launch of Oculus Touch, a project that Palmer Luckey supposedly had a large hand in, but did not include Palmer in the presentation or the conference. Instead, they brought out people in leadership positions from around the company and gave them a platform to share the work they had done.
  • Oculus talked about their continued support for Launchpad, VR For Good, and the Amplifying New Voices Bootcamp.
  • They announced a partnership with the UN to create documentaries on humanitarian issues.
  • All of these programs are supported by 10 million dollars in funding, announced during the keynote by Ebony Peay Ramirez, Oculus’ Project Manager for Diversity.

We’d like to highlight specifically what Ebony said:

“It’s no secret that this community needs to be even broader. Virtual reality will only succeed if it represents a diverse ecosystem that speaks to different people and opinions. We want to see a wide variety of richer voices. We know that a platform that’s built with diverse thought, personalities, perspectives and imaginations is a much more engaging and dynamic one.”

This is a set of actions and a voice that we fully support. While we feel very strongly about Palmer’s actions, and lack of meaningful follow-up, Oculus as a company has explicitly taken steps toward valuing and supporting diversity. We look forward to seeing them build on their plans for cultivating diversity in VR and hearing about the impact they have.

We will support Oculus integration for NewtonVR for the sake of the broader VR development community

The majority of the work our company has been doing is to support the VR community. We created NewtonVR and released it for free to help developers and creators, giving everyone a quick & easy tool you can use to make the VR experiences you think should exist. We would like to continue to support the rich, diverse ingenuity that is coming out of the community we share with everyone. To that end, we have decided to complete our development on support for the Oculus SDK and release it as soon as it’s ready.

We feel it’s important to run a business that doesn’t just state our values, but takes action based on those values. Part of acting on our values means encouraging a dialog with everyone involved, leaving the door open for continued conversation, and challenging ourselves to improve. We hope that this letter has furthered that goal and welcome feedback.

Thanks for reading,

Adrienne Hunter and Keith Bradner
Tomorrow Today Labs