Google's director of AR is leaving to join Facebook's Reality Labs team

Joshua To has led flagship Google AR projects like Lens and Maps, as well as overseen wearables for the company. Sources say he's ready for change.

Detail of an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset, taken on September 28, 2020. (Photo by Phil Bar...
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Joshua To, director of Google’s AR / VR team, is leaving the company after more than eight years there. A source familiar with To’s work tells Input he’ll be joining Facebook’s own augmented reality team, which is part of Facebook Reality Labs, to continue the social network’s work on AR expansion. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the appointment to Input.

In his time at Google, To has worked on and overseen a number of high-level projects. He began at the company in 2013 as a lead on Google Workspace — apps including Gmail and Docs — and later played a pivotal role in creating and maneuvering Google’s AR / VR team. In recent years he’s focused on Google’s AR projects like Lens and Daydream. He also created Google’s Artist-in-Residence program.

To will now bring these years of experience to Facebook Reality Labs. The social network’s AR / VR arm has grown significantly in the last year or so, and To isn’t the first talented Googler Facebook’s scooped up, either.

Craig Wilson / Input

The talent keeps rolling in — Google has long been a leader in AR and VR. Google Glass was one of the first pieces of AR hardware available to consumers, and in recent years software like Lens and Daydream have continued pushing the AR envelope.

Now Facebook has its own sights set on creating top-of-the-line AR / VR hardware and software — and it’s pulling in talent to match. To is one of the most impressive talent acquisitions for the Facebook Reality Labs team thus far, though he’s far from the first person to move from Google to Facebook. Ryan Cairns, VP of Portal, worked on Google’s AR/VR team for years before moving to Facebook; Jonathan Huang, meanwhile, joined Facebook as Portal’s Director of Product Management in 2019 after 12 years at Google.

Facebook’s big AR / VR bet — Facebook’s AR and VR ambitions are no secret, at this point. Facebook Reality Labs is working on consumer hardware and software, yes, but the team is also conducting intense research on the future of human-computer interaction.

And Facebook Reality Labs is bringing in the big guns to bring those sky-high ambitions to fruition. To’s experience at Google will no doubt prove useful to Facebook’s own AR / VR projects. Facebook’s string of talent acquisitions proves its commitment to the emergent space goes much, much deeper than smartwatches and glasses.