Feb 22 2024
An exec shares his bold vision for connectedness and creativity
By Meta Careers
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Find Alfred J., Director of VR product hardware engineering, away from work, and he’ll be embarking on creative adventures with his family. Alfred cherishes these moments, emphasizing, "We love being creative — DIY and making things together is a fantastic way to bond with my kids." From a young age, Alfred was fascinated with assembly-required toys, Legos and K'NEX. "The joy of building something from scratch, understanding how pieces fit together to create something new, was thrilling to me."

Alfred's journey into the world of making began in an environment enriched by his parents' unwavering support. "My parents were incredible role models: my mother, a successful NYC school principal, and my father, who juggled roles as a business owner and a lawyer. They spared no expense to expose me to diverse perspectives and opportunities to develop my technical and creative skills. They always encouraged my strengths.”

While Alfred was surrounded by many examples of professional success, he initially struggled to envision a career engineering products. Determined to carve out his own path, Alfred leaned on the values instilled by his parents and indirect mentors he encountered. "We didn't have direct connections with Black leaders in the tech industry, which made it hard for me to see myself in those roles. However, the examples set by my parents and the professionals around me guided me toward discovering my passion for engineering.”

“My parents taught me to value creativity, perseverance, and the importance of forging my own path, leading me to a career I deeply love."

The engineering behind immersive experiences

Today, Alfred leads VR hardware engineering for Meta, where he and his team develop mixed reality devices like Meta Quest 3. “At Meta, our mission is to create the future of the next computing platform, also referred to as spatial computing. Our Meta Quest devices and smart glasses are stepping stones we're sharing with the world today, as we continue to execute on a roadmap of technologies to achieve that vision in the coming years.”

According to Alfred, the most complex aspect of building Meta Quest 3 and Meta Quest Pro is balancing all the technical trade-offs between feature sets, performance, wearability and physics. “Weight and thermals are major challenges when building an immersive VR headset. We have to consider the design and implementation of displays, viewing optics, batteries, circuit boards and mechanical components that hold everything together. Simultaneously, we have to make sure the headset fits on a wide variety of head types. We have to be extremely innovative while ensuring high quality and reliability at mass manufacturing volumes — tens of millions of devices.”

Alfred sitting at a desk wearing a Meta Quest 3 headset.

Working within these constraints, Alfred and his team use tools like computer aided design (CAD) to visually engineer and model the finished device and its components. This is coupled with simulation tools that help them understand sensor placement as well as the structural performance of the design. The result is a real-life prototype, often made of 3D-printed components to maintain an agile development process.

“A big innovation from Meta Quest 2 to Meta Quest 3 is mixed reality and our dynamic room mapping capabilities,” Alfred shares. “Meta Quest 3 is the first device at this scale that can overlay virtual objects in your real-world setting while detecting physical services and objects around you — truly mixing your realities together.”

Where mixed reality meets mission

In addition to Alfred’s day-to-day work, making an impact is a constant source of inspiration. “Our top mission with VR and mixed reality is connectedness and driving creativity,” he continues. “Imagine a world beyond the physical limitation of your phone or computer, where you’re able to visually interact with the space around you, transport yourself to loved ones and spend time together as if you were physically there.”

To build a mixed reality experience that mimics the real world, Alfred and his team use outward facing, eye-level sensors consisting of cameras and projectors. The headset takes in the real world and presents a mixed reality experience to peoples’ eyes through the display and optics. “Our team has to overcome latency to get this right — laying virtual elements over real elements in fractions of a second so your brain can’t distinguish between the two.”

Alfred loves helping his team bring bold ideas and a big vision to life. “We do a lot of cool research and constantly ask ourselves, ‘How do we turn this into a device that’s affordable and scalable?’ Mixed reality is about opening up possibilities for people everywhere. I dream about my grandmother being able to buy and wear sunglasses that take her to Paris.”

In the meantime, Alfred’s leadership has helped him become the kind of role model he always hoped to see. “Serving billions of people across many different technologies means we play a part in defining culture, helping people connect and create more,” he says. “This is one of the best things about doing this work, and I’m proud that our efforts ride on the culture of the company, which is centered on inclusivity. When we all come together to innovate, anything is possible — and y'all ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Stay connected.

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