Major Corporations Urge Supreme Court to Take Gay Rights Case

The companies are asking the high court to rule that federal employment discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California on September 2, 2015.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images, file

Some of America’s most well-known companies are urging the Supreme Court to rule that a federal employment discrimination law prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, a position opposite of the one taken by the Trump administration.

The 76 businesses and organizations — including American Airlines, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Google, Starbucks and Microsoft — filed a brief Wednesday encouraging the high court to take up the issue. They want the court to take a case out of Georgia in which a gay woman who worked as a hospital security officer says she was harassed and punished for dressing in a male uniform and wearing her hair short. Jameka Evans, who worked at Georgia Regional Hospital at Savannah from 2012 to 2013, ultimately left her job and sued.

The question in her case is whether a federal law barring workplace discrimination “because of…sex” covers discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President Barack Obama took the view that it does. But President Donald Trump’s administration has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on gender but doesn’t cover sexual orientation.

The businesses’ court filing says they and their employees would benefit if the court agreed to take the case and rule that Title VII covers sexual orientation discrimination.

“Businesses’ first-hand experiences — supported by extensive social-science research — confirm the significant costs for employers and employees when sexual orientation discrimination is not forbidden by a uniform law, even where other policies exist against such discrimination,” the businesses wrote in their brief. The organizations that joined the brief also include two sports teams, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Heat.


Justice Department Files Brief Rejecting LGBTQ Workplace Protections

The case out of Georgia is not unique. Most federal appeals courts in the past have ruled that “sex” means biological gender, not sexual orientation. But a federal appeals court in Chicago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, ruled earlier this year that the law covers sexual orientation. In that case, a gay part-time community college instructor sued after she was repeatedly turned down for a full-time job and her part-time contract was not renewed.

The New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit is also weighing the issue. Last month, the full court heard arguments in a case in which a skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, claimed he was fired from his job after telling a client he was gay. He sued under the Civil Rights Act, but previous rulings have gone against Zarda, who died in an accident in Switzerland three years ago. A ruling in his case isn’t expected for some time.

Amazon Is Ready for the Next Generation Consumer: Your Teen

If giving your teen free rein to shop on Amazon sounds like your worst nightmare, we’ve got bad news for you. It’s officially here.

Amazon introduced a new feature on Wednesday that allows parents to create accounts for their children ages 13 to 17. The teens will have separate logins but will be tied to the master account.

Of course, the team at Amazon knew giving a teen carte blanche to spend mom and dad’s money probably wouldn’t be a popular choice for parents, so they’ve added a set of parental controls.

Image: Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, speaks during a press conference on September 6, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Joe Klamar / AFP – Getty Images file

“What we’re looking at is balancing independence for teens and convenience and trust with parents,” Michael Carr, vice president of Amazon Household, told NBC News.

It’s just the latest move in Amazon’s play to draw the whole family into the company’s ecosystem of products and services.

Already, when mom and dad aren’t home to help with study time, kids can turn to Alexa for help with homework. Amazon also makes a kid-friendly version of its Fire Tablet, letting even the youngest members of the family experience its products.

Image: Amazon is introducing a new way for teens to order but with controls to keep parents in the loop.
Amazon is introducing a new way for teens to order but with controls to keep parents in the loop. Amazon

With this new Amazon service, parents can add up to four teens to their account for free and set the payment methods and shipping addresses. After their teens are done filling their cart, parents will receive a quick text asking for approval. Parents can also choose to skip the approval step and instead set spending limits. If a parent has Amazon Prime, those benefits will also be extended to the teen shopper.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said the teen shopping announcement makes sense for Amazon as the company continues to dominate the online shopping space.

“Amazon has most households and therefore most adult Americans as customers. The company is now going after businesses and now kids as customers,” he said. “If parents can tell their kids to ‘get it on Amazon,’ it saves parents time.”

Ten to 15 years ago, parents of teens were faced with the decision of whether their child was ready to have their own cell phone or AOL Instant Messenger screen name. Now, they’ll have to decide if their teen is ready to independently shop on Amazon.

“I see the benefit to this if it were used as a modern version of an allowance,” Dr. Alok Patel, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Columbia University, told NBC News. “It is another modern way to reward teens for good behavior and to teach them financial responsibility.”

Anita Weiss, a Phoenix mom of two girls aged 16 and 17, said her teens already know her Amazon password. She’s comfortable with them shopping on Amazon, as long as a parent is kept in the loop.

“I trust my kids completely. I’m not worried about them doing something bad, but they are kids and they might make judgement calls that are not the best,” she said. For instance, “They may buy something I could find cheaper somewhere else.”

Related: Amazon Just Announced It Is Slashing Prices at Whole Foods

Sara Lenertz of Minneapolis has a 16-year-old daughter and a son who will turn 13 in January.

“My daughter long ago memorized my credit card number, including the three-digit code on the back,” she told NBC News. “I feel fine about her shopping on Amazon, but I am sure it would come down to the level of trust parents have with their children.”

Lenertz said her son went a little wild with in-app purchases a few years ago, a problem plenty of parents (including Kanye West) have complained about. However, she thinks that even at the younger end of the age range, he’d still be ready to have his own account.

“I don’t know how much they would go off on their own and shop at will,” she said. “I think [many teens] already know how Amazon works. This might make it a little more hands off, but kids are so intuitive with anything technological.”

10-Year-Old Florida Girl Pries Leg From Alligator’s Mouth

A 10-year-old Florida girl fought off an alligator attack by prying open the 9-foot-long beast’s mouth and freeing her leg, the little girl and rescue personnel said Monday.

The girl, Juliana Ossa, was swimming Saturday afternoon in about 2 feet of water at a lake in Moss Park in Orlando when the alligator bit her, lifeguards said in an incident report filed with the Orange County Department of Parks and Recreation.

She was pulled to shore and rushed to Nemours Children’s Hospital, where she was treated for lacerations and puncture wounds in the back of her left knee and lower thigh, the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said. She was back home on Monday, with her leg covered in bandages from hip to toe.

“I tried hitting it on its forehead to let me go,” Juliana said in an interview on NBC’s TODAY. “That didn’t work, so I thought of a plan they taught in Gatorland. The guy was wrestling the alligator with its mouth taped, and in this situation it was the other way around.

“So I stuck my two fingers up its nose so it couldn’t breathe — it had to be from its mouth — and he opened it, so it let my leg out.”

“I was scared at first, but I knew what to do,” she told told NBC affiliate WESHearlier Monday.

Juliana’s step uncle Steven Rodriguez pulled her out of the water: “When I got her to the shore I let her down and I saw how much blood was coming out of her leg, so I picked her back up and I walked her to the picnic table.”

Kevin Brito, a paramedic who took care of Juliana, said Juliana stayed calm throughout the ordeal.

“She was a tough little girl,” Brito told WESH. “She also commented that if something is going to attack her, she has to attack back.”

Trappers caught the alligator and euthanized it. The beach remained closed Monday as crews evaluated the incident.

Image: Alligator that attacked girl
A trapper on Monday shows off the alligator that attacked Juliana Ossa in Orlando, Florida. WESH / NBC News

Trudeau and Obama Share Intimate Montreal Meal

Image: Trudeau speaks Obama at a restaurant in Montreal

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted his thanks to former U.S. President Barack Obama after the two shared a private dinner at a Montreal restaurant.

Trudeau posted a picture of the pair talking in the eatery, with the caption “How do we get young leaders to take action in their communities? Thanks @BarackObama for your visit & insights tonight in my hometown.”

Last year, Obama hosted Trudeau for a state dinner at the White House, the first for Canada since 1997.

Image: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toasts U.S. President Barack Obama during a state dinner at the White House in Washington
Trudeau toasts Obama at the White House in March 2016. Joshua Roberts / Reuters file

Jersey Shore Sand Sculpture Mocks Gov. Chris Christie’s Viral Beach Outing

A giant sand sculpture of Gov. Chris Christie lounging in a chair has appeared on the Jersey Shore after a government shutdown closed state beaches and parks for much of the Fourth of July weekend.

The sculpture was built on a Seaside Heights beach Tuesday, the same day Christie signed his final budget following the bruising three-day state government shutdown that included a viral photo of him lounging on a state beach that was closed to the public because of a budget impasse.

Lifeguards said the sculptors behind the piece of art, whose names are only know as Larry and Tom, began their work at 9 a.m. Tuesday and finished by 1 p.m.

The lifeguards said that the same two sculptors come to this corner of Seaside Heights every year with their families to make a sand sculpture. Last year, the sculpture honored Sept. 11 victims on the 15-year anniversary of the attacks.

Jersey Shore Sand Sculpture Mocks Gov. Chris Christie

[NATL-NY] Jersey Shore Sand Sculpture Mocks Gov. Chris Christie

Jarret DiGiantomasso

This year’s sculpture took a more comedic tone. Dozens of beachgoers snapped photos with the Christie sand sculpture, which was scrawled with the words, “Beach Closed,” “I Love New Jersey” and “July 4th.”

The sculpture began to fade as the sunny, summer day dragged on, but the form of Christie — and of a great white shark looking ferocious beside him — could still be made out at sunset.

One beachgoer called the sculpture appropriate following widespread outrage during the state shutdown.

  • Tri-State Celebrates July 4 From East River to Jersey Shore

Sometime before nightfall, someone destroyed the sculpture, replacing it with a smiling face, possibly the head of a starfish.

Christie, by his own admission, entered lame-duck territory on Tuesday. The two-term Republican governor signed the $34.7 billion budget and sounded an unapologetic tone over the aerial photos snapped by that showed him at the state governor’s residence at Island Beach State Park.

The pictures sparked a global reaction. Countless memes featuring a Photoshopped cutout of Christie in a beach chair, headlines on international news sites and a full-scale media blitz from Christie’s spokesman.

“If they had flown that plane over that beach and I was sitting next to a 25-year-old blonde in that beach chair next to me that’s a story,” he said. “I wasn’t sitting next to a 25-year-old blonde. I was sitting next to my wife of 31 years.”

The photos are part of a bruising finale for the term-limited governor, who had been a regular on late-night TV and a Republican superstar after Superstorm Sandy hammered his state in 2012.

Christie’s job approval in New Jersey has sunk to 15 percent, tumbling after the convictions of three former aides in a scheme to deliberately cause traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge, his failed presidential run and his backing of President Donald Trump.

  • NJ Budget Deal Signed, Parks Reopen for July 4

He’s become such a political liability in New Jersey that his top deputy, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, running to succeed him, hammered him over the beach photos: “Beyond words,” she said.

People in New Jersey and beyond seized on what many saw as a let-them-eat-cake gesture by the state’s chief executive.

“Taxpayers can’t use the parks and other public sites they pay for, but he and his family can hang out at a beach that no one else can use?” asked Mary Jackson, a Freehold resident. “Doesn’t he realize how that looks, how people will see it as a slap in the face?”

Back to the Beach as NJ Government Shutdown Ends

[NY] Back to the Beach as NJ Government Shutdown Ends

Beaches and parks were back open for the Fourth of July, but many New Jersey residents say damage from the three-day government shutdown is already done. Brian Thompson reports.

(Published Tuesday, July 4, 2017)

Christie acknowledged his lame-duck status on Tuesday after the budget signing but predicted that if Guadagno wins he still might have some influence with lawmakers — but less if Democrat Phil Murphy wins. The Legislature is expected to leave Trenton to campaign since all 120 seats are up this year.

Christie denied the beach photos played a role in how he negotiated with lawmakers and said it was “the pressure of a shutdown” that contributed to the budget resolution. He also has said he only worries about polls when he’s running for office — and he’s not.

But experts said they think the pictures all but did him in.

  • Closer Look at Budget Standoff as NJ Gov’t Shutdown Drags On

“The photos are likely the nails in Christie’s political coffin that drive his approval ratings into the single digits,” Montclair State University political science professor Brigid Harrison said.

The deal Christie struck late Monday with Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and Democratic Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto calls for a $34.7 billion budget that includes more than $300 million in Democratic spending priorities and is part of an agreement to overhaul the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The Horizon legislation calls for annual audits of the nonprofit’s reserve level, sets a range for reserves and requires excess to be spent on policyholders. The budget stalemate centered on Christie’s desire for legislation to overhaul Horizon, but the deal includes none of the initial use of Horizon’s surplus for opioid treatment that he set out to get in February.

Without a budget, state parks were shut down along with other nonessential state services, including state courts and the motor vehicle offices where people go to get driver’s licenses. Tens of thousands of state workers were furloughed.

Christie said he requested to give state workers a paid holiday on Tuesday and would discuss back pay with lawmakers.

Strangers Form 70-Person ‘Human Chain’ to Save Family From Rip Current

A potential tragedy in a north Florida beach got a happy ending when strangers formed a human chain in the water to rescue a family from a rip current.

Roberta Ursery and her family were spending Saturday at Panama City Beach when she realized she’d lost sight of her 8- and 11-year-old sons, NBC affiliate WJHG reported. She spotted them far out in the water, where they were caught in a rip current and unable to swim back to shore.

“They were screaming and crying that they were stuck and they couldn’t go nowhere,” Ursrey said.

The sight of the children in distress prompted most of the Ursery family to swim out to save them, but they were all caught in the current themselves when it proved to be too strong.

That’s when fellow beachgoers came to the rescue, heading into the water and linking arms to form a human chain that could withstand the current.

“It went from, like, five people to about 70 people at the end. It lasted well over an hour,” Jessica Simmons, one of the people who helped save the family, told WJHG.

Image: Human Chain Rescue
At least 70 people form a human chain to rescue a family off Panama City Beach, Florida, on Saturday.Rosalind Beckton

The rescue mission was successful, and the whole family made it safely back to shore to the sounds of cheering and clapping, Simmons told the station.

“As a mama, I’m supposed to be able to protect [my children] and do everything, and I couldn’t do it that day,” Ursery told WJHG. “I had to have help, which I was eternally grateful for.”

And her son Stephen, 8, said that all he hopes for is to be able one day to rescue those who rescued him on Saturday.

Ex-Chemistry Teacher Gets 4 Years for Cooking Meth. Sound Familiar?

Life apparently imitates art — or at least cable television.

A former high school chemistry teacher convicted of cooking meth in New Mexico — not unlike Walter White, the fictional antihero from “Breaking Bad” — was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday, prosecutors said.

New Mexico District Judge Fernando Macias handed the defendant, John W. Gose, a nine-year sentence, all but four years of it suspended. After he is released, Gose must serve five years of supervised probation.

Image: John Gose listens during his sentencing hearing
John Gose in court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Wednesday. Josh Bachman / as Cruces Sun-News via AP

“We asked the court for the sentence we felt was appropriate for Mr. Gose,” Doña Ana County District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said in a statement. “We are very pleased that the defendant will have to face the consequences of his illegal and irresponsible decisions.”

Gose, 56, pleaded guilty in May to trafficking by manufacturing a controlled substance.

He was arrested in October after Las Cruces police officers found a white Styrofoam ice chest containing glassware, rubber tubing and chemicals used to cook methamphetamine during a routine traffic stop, according to prosecutors.

Related: Twin Plagues: Meth Rises in Shadow of Opioids

Authorities later found more chemicals and supplies at his home in southern New Mexico. Investigators said he possessed ingredients to make at least a pound of meth — at an estimated street value of $44,800.

Gose taught high school science in El Paso, Texas, and middle school science in Las Cruces, prosecutors said. He told a roommate that he used to teach chemistry, according to police reports cited by prosecutors.

Texas Woman Slips Handcuffs, Takes Police SUV on 100-MPH Chase

Texas police published video Tuesday showing a shoplifting suspect slipping out of her handcuffs, stealing a police SUV and leading officers on a breathtaking high-speed chase.

The woman, identified as Toscha Fay Sponsler, 33, of Pollok, Texas, ran away from Lufkin police officers responded to a call of a possible shoplifter at a beauty supply store on Saturday, police said in a statement Tuesday. After the officers ran her down on foot, Sponsler was cuffed behind her back and buckled into a seatbelt in the back of a patrol SUV, police said.

Then the action movie started.

 Watch Woman Remove Handcuffs, Steal Police Car 1:45

Video from the SUV’s internal camera records Sponsler deftly wriggling out her handcuffs, keeping a wary eye out and playing possum whenever someone in uniform passes by the window. When she gets the chance, she clambers over into the front seat and speeds off, with officers vainly trying to run her down on foot.

Video from the unit’s dash camera records Sponsler speeding and veering across lanes, at one point swerving to avoid a spike strip that a roadside officer tosses into the street.

After what police said was a 23-minute pursuit at speeds hitting 100 mph, officers maneuver Sponsler into making a hard turn into a residential yard more than 20 miles away in the town of Zavalla, where she loses control of the SUV and finally comes to a stop. Officers break through the driver’s-side window and toss Sponsler on the ground, where they cuff her again.

IMAGE: Toscha Fay Sponsler
Toscha Fay Sponsler in a police mugshot. Angelina County, Texas, Jail

The video ends with a clip of a Lufkin officer drilling bolts into a unit and a notation that the department has reinforced the partition between the front and back seats of its units. It boasts the hashtag #FOOLMEONCE.

Sponsler remained in the Angelina County Jail on $18,000 bond on Tuesday night, charged with five felony counts of escape with the threat of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, unauthorized use of a vehicle, possession of a controlled substance and evading arrest, according to jail records.

The alleged deadly weapon was a police shotgun mechanically locked to the SUV, which pursuing officers said they saw Sponsler reach for repeatedly.

Apple’s Tim Cook prefers augmented reality to VR

Apple’s chief executive has suggested he is not very enthusiastic about virtual reality.

Tim Cook said that he felt that the technology could isolate users and voiced a preference for augmented reality instead.

AR involves mixing graphics and real-world views together rather than solely filling a person’s view with computer-generated images.

One expert suggested Mr Cook’s view was becoming more popular in tech circles.

Mr Cook expressed his opinion at an event hosted by the University of Oxford, in response to a student’s question about what technologies would prove transformative.

“I’m incredibly excited by AR because I can see uses for it everywhere,” Mr Cook replied.

“I can see uses for it in education, in consumers, in entertainment, in sports. I can see it in every business that I know anything about

“I also like the fact that it doesn’t isolate.

“I don’t like our products being used a lot. I like our products amplifying thoughts and I think AR can help amplify the human connection.

“I’ve never been a fan of VR like that because I think it does the opposite.

“There are clearly some cool niche things for VR but it’s not profound in my view. AR is profound.”

Apple’s latest mobile system – iOS 11 – has made it easier for augmented reality features to be added to apps via a set of tools it shared with developers in June called ARKit.

But for now the experiences on offer are restricted to being seen via a smartphone or tablet screen.

Apple has filed several patents relating to augmented reality glasses, which have the potential to provide more immersive views. But Mr Cook acknowledged in an earlier interview that today’s display technologies were not adequate to deliver an experience the public would be satisfied with.

However, there is a growing number of virtual reality headsets on sale.

And Apple spent part of its recent WWDC developers conference showcasing the fact its latest Mac operating system had introduced support for one of the most popular models – HTC’s Vive.

It is also marketing its current range of iMac computers as being well-suited to ” create cutting-edge 3D VR content”.

“It’s fashionable to knock VR in favour of AR at present,” commented Kevin Joyce, editor-in-chief of VRFocus, a news site that covers both technologies.

“Augmented reality is attracting more hype at present, but I think things will come back around and VR will be celebrated again once we get more standalone headsets [that don’t need to be powered by a PC or smartphone].

“But ultimately there will be a time when they merge and we’ll end up with one headset that does both.”

He added that he doubted in the short-term that many developers would be discouraged from using Apple’s products to create VR experiences as a result of the comments.

Mr Cook’s appearance coincided with Mark Zuckerberg’s launch of a new Oculus virtual reality headset.

Mark ZuckerbergImage copyrightFACEBOOK
Image captionMark Zuckerberg introduced his company’s Oculus Connect event shortly after Mr Cook’s apperance

At the event in San Jose, California, Facebook’s chief said: “Some people say that VR is isolating and anti-social. I actually think it’s the opposite…. opening up more of those experiences to more of us – that’s not isolating, that’s freeing.”

Microsoft also partnered with six hardware manufacturers to launch a range of Windows-powered VR headsets last week.

Facebook: We want a billion people in VR

Oculus Go does not require a smartphone to power its visuals

In its continued effort to take virtual reality mainstream, Facebook has announced Oculus Go – a standalone headset that will be released in 2018.

Mark Zuckerberg said the device, priced at $199, would be the “most accessible VR experience ever”.

Sales of the company’s VR hardware have been slow since launching the first Oculus Rift headset in March 2016.

“If VR doesn’t go mass market at this price point, I think we can conclude that it never will,” said John Delaney, an analyst with IDC.

The existing budget way to get Facebook’s VR is the Samsung Gear VR at $129 – but that requires a high-end Samsung smartphone in order to work.

Speaking at Facebook’s yearly virtual reality developers conference in San Jose, Mr Zuckerberg acknowledged the slow adoption of the technology to date. But he said his company’s goal was that one day, it would get one billion people into VR.

To get there, the company needs to create a premium, standalone VR device that offers free movement. It hasn’t managed that yet – the new Oculus Go should still be regarded as a budget VR experience.

But the company’s new head of VR, Hugo Barra, also shared more details about Project Santa Cruz, Facebook’s prototype high-end device that will offer movement-tracking without the need for tethering to a computer, or the placing of sensors around a home.

Many had hoped Project Santa Cruz would get a public release date, having first been announced at this event last year. Facebook’s new head of VR, Hugo Barra, would only divulge that developers would be sent devices to work with within the next 12 months.

Until then, Oculus Go is Facebook’s biggest hope in stepping up the adoption of virtual reality among the general public.

The device will be sent to developers to start building with in November this year. It will offer better visuals than the current Gear VR, but drops well short of the premium VR experience offered by the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers.

‘Too crazy or complex’

But the future of this massively-hyped technology is unclear.

Mr Zuckerberg opened the conference with an admission that virtual reality was still some way from being a mainstream product. In an effort to reassure developers working on expensive VR projects, he insisted this was typical of all big new ideas.

“A lot of them seem maybe too crazy or complex at the start,” he told delegates.

“Some people say that VR is isolating and anti-social. I actually think it’s the opposite. We all have limits to our reality. Opening up more of those experiences to more of us – that’s not isolating, that’s freeing.”

Throughout 2017, Mr Zuckerberg – who has repeatedly said he’s not considering a run for president – has travelled the US, meeting regular Americans.

Project Santa Cruz is a high-end, premium headset with movement trackingImage copyrightFACEBOOK
Image captionProject Santa Cruz is a high-end, premium headset with movement tracking

“A lot of the places I have visited don’t have the same economic opportunity as we have here [in California]. Enabling us to be present anywhere, creates opportunities for people everywhere.”

However, many think those opportunities will come from augmented reality, rather than virtual. Augmented reality is when digital images are placed over the real world in front of you.

The leader in this area is Microsoft with its Hololens product. It too suffers from expensive hardware and low adoption. But once the technology improves, some believe it might offer a great deal more than VR.

“I think one of the problems with VR as a mass-market proposition is that you’re unaware of what’s happening around you in reality,” said analyst Mr Delaney.

“So you’ll only wear one of these things in situations where you feel secure about that. Largely, for consumers, that means only at home or in the car [as a passenger]. So although VR can be connected to mobile networks, it is not really mobile.”

‘We’re working on it’

Some believe the missing link in making virtual reality popular with this masses is content. In other words, even with the hardware getting cheaper, there’s too few fun experiences to be had.

“Oculus Go is an important step to broaden the audience for VR,” remarked Geoff Blaber from CCS Insight.

“But as Google’s Daydream platform shows, consumers still lack a compelling reason to adopt it. Developer support and compelling content are critical to building mass market interest.”

Hugo Barra, formerly at Google, joined Facebook at the beginning of this yearImage copyrightFACEBOOK
Image captionHugo Barra, formerly at Google, joined Facebook at the beginning of this year

Facebook pointed to several successes, including three Emmy awards won by VR titles this year.

Big Hollywood tie-ups, with studios like Marvel, will look to build on this – but it will take time. A newly-announced tie-up with games developer Respawn, creator of Titanfall, will bring a major new title, but not until at least 2019.

Another strategy for getting Oculus Rift in the hands of more people is to make it part of the world of work.

Facebook launched Oculus for Business, a scheme that will offer firms dedicated support and hardware bundle deals. The company would help firms put VR into their workflows, Mr Barra said.

Over the past three decades, promises of virtual reality have come in waves. This latest effort shows the most promise, by far – but the unavoidable detail is that the hardware still remains too cumbersome for the mass market. Premium VR is too big and too expensive.

“That’s not great,” Mr Zuckerberg told delegates. “We’re working on it.”