Mark Bolas, a professor at USC, an astonishingly prolific innovator, has invented or co-invented many things. One of those things was FOV2GO, an ingenious way to make a very inexpensive, very wide angle virtual reality display.
You start with two really inexpensive lenses, put a SmartPhone screen a few inches away, and wrap the whole thing in an inexpensive housing — which can even be cardboard. If you already have a SmartPhone, you can make one yourself for a few dollars in parts.
One of the students working on this project — Palmer Luckey — spun the basic idea out into a start-up company, Oculus Rift, which added an orientation tracker, more solid packaging and support software, and was recently purchased by Facebook for two billion dollars.
As you might have guessed, Mark is not now wealthy.
This week I’m at the FMX conference, and it seems that at nearly every session Palmer Luckey’s name comes up, but Mark Bolas is never mentioned.
I don’t want to take anything away from Palmer’s contribution. It takes a lot of work to make a successful commercial enterprise, including a level of financial investment, marketing and engineering that is simply not needed in an academic project.
So yes, I understand why Mark is not getting the financial payoff here. Still, in all the hype in the press and elsewhere, shouldn’t a primary inventor of the technology at least be mentioned?
Shouldn’t an inventor get at least a little credit for his own invention?