I’ve had the blessing of growing up with supportive parents, who didn’t actually financially support my hobbies. I had to do odd jobs and stuff to make all the money myself, but they were at least very supportive of me, being flexible with my time. They home-schooled me in a way that let me prioritize my schoolwork for certain days and my other stuff for other days. And I started taking community college courses when I was 14. That gave me a lot of freedom to choose the classes on the days I wanted. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Rift never would’ve happened had I not been home-schooled.When you have to be a self-motivated learner, and you are not in school because you’re legally required to, but you’re there because you’re taking community college courses and you want to succeed, you want to get a grade that’ll apply for a transfer. All of the sudden you care about what you’re learning a lot more. So I wasn’t there just to get through the daily grind. I was doing what I did to learn and also learning a lot of things on the side. I learned a lot more on my own outside of school, at least when it comes to what’s relevant to what I’m doing now.
It’s because nobody cared. Nobody was paying attention to virtual reality. That is the only reason the Rift did not exist earlier. I’ve actually done some analysis of the components used in my earlier Rift prototypes, and the prototype that [Doom creator] John Carmack used could have been built for under $1,000 in 2007 and under $500 in 2009. The exact same components or very very similar performing components. Carmack didn’t show off at E3 till 2012. Between three and six years had gone by between when the tech was finally there and when it all of the sudden caught on.The components I was using even were relatively old — they weren’t the most cutting edge thing because they were things that I was able to obtain off the shelf and modify, so it’s just kind of interesting. You’re right, there’s all these companies — millions of dollars — you think that one of them would’ve had a VR R&D project that was going somewhere, and it turned out none of them did. Our Kickstarter proved that people wanted VR, and our hardware that we shipped proved it was finally good enough, and now you have all of these big companies like Sony and Facebook and Google and Microsoft all getting into the augmented reality and virtual reality game in a big way.
Mark’s pretty cool. He’s reminded — I don’t want to say I’m a lot like Mark Zuckerberg, but I felt like we see the world in a lot of the same ways. He’s actually a pretty down to earth guy and he wants to change the world in a lot of good ways. He agreed with the same vision. He was the only person at a large company that really agreed with our version of virtual reality. Which is that virtual reality will be a massive part of the future of entertainment and education and communication.
I was being kind of arrogant. My thought was ‘I’m already a self-taught engineer, I already know plenty about engineering, why would I go to school just to learn more about it. Oh, I’ll learn something about something I don’t know a lot about,’ which journalism was one of those things. I wanted to be a technology journalist that understood technology, because there are very few of those.