Virtual reality tech firm Oculus to open research division in Oakland
January 19, 2016 12:00 AM
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Oculus VR Inc. is a cutting-edge creator of a new virtual reality headset.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A cutting-edge creator of a new virtual reality headset is the latest high-tech company to establish a presence in Pittsburgh, joining such luminaries as Apple and Google.
Oculus VR Inc. will open a 20,000-square-foot office for its research division this spring in Schenley Place, a new seven-story building located in Oakland and developed by Elmhurst Group.
Tera Randall, a spokeswoman for Oculus, confirmed Monday that the firm would be leasing the space.
Virtual reality: Oculus Rift, PlayStation and Vive headsets
The PG's Game Guy Max Parker talks about the Oculus Rift, PlayStation and Vive headsets and a couple of new games. (Video by Melissa Tkach)
“Oculus Research is building a small team in Pittsburgh that will focus on virtual reality research,” she said.
The company, founded in 2012, is considered a leader in immersive virtual reality technology.
Facebook paid $2 billion, a sum that included $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of its stock, to acquire the firm two years ago after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg became enthralled with the technology, personally testing a prototype himself.
Oculus is getting a lot of buzz as it gets ready to debut this spring its much-anticipated Oculus Rift virtual reality system, one that began as a Kickstarter project launched by company founder Palmer Luckey.
The system will sell for $599, while promising to make you feel “like you’re really there,” whether playing a video game, watching an immersive virtual reality movie, or hanging with friends in virtual reality.
With the system, Oculus will include a couple of virtual reality games as well as a remote to browse content in the Oculus Store or Oculus Video. The firm also stated it is working with other developers in the industry to create more games and experiences.
Ms. Randall said she did not have any additional details about the Oculus office in Pittsburgh or the team that will be working from it. Two years ago, Oculus created a research division dedicated to advancing virtual reality technology. It was to be based in Seattle.
Landing the firm is a coup for developer Elmhurst, which has spent about seven years developing the $18 million Schenley Place, overcoming the Great Recession and neighborhood issues in the process.
“We knew the site was a good one, so we were willing to wait on it,” said William E. Hunt, Elmhurst president and CEO.
Oculus, which now has its headquarters on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif., will take a portion of the space on the first floor and a portion on the second at Schenley Place.
Mr. Hunt said he was excited to be able to sign the firm, noting it was not only good for his company and the building but the city as a whole. It is another indication, he added, that the Steel City is becoming a tech hub.
The University of Pittsburgh is taking another 14,000 square feet of space on the seventh floor for administrative offices.
Mr. Hunt said he has leases out or is in discussions with possible tenants interested in taking another 50,000 square feet in the building, which includes three levels of underground parking, 120 spaces in all.
Given the scarcity of top-of-the-line Class A office space in Oakland, which has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the region, and the presence of universities like Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, Mr. Hunt is confident the building will be a success.
“We’re optimistic there’s always going to be demand at this location,” he said.
Oculus will be joining a growing tech community in Pittsburgh. With roughly 400 employees locally, Google is expanding into a second office building at Bakery Square in Larimer/Shadyside.
Apple is taking space in a new office building in Oxford Development Co.’s 3 Crossings development in the Strip District, while ride-sharing pioneer Uber has created an advanced technologies center in the same neighborhood.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.
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