The Oculus cofounder Michael Antonov has been accused of reaching beneath a woman’s skirt during a private virtual-reality demo following an event at the 2016 Game Developers Conference.
Autumn Rose Taylor, now a marketing director in the VR industry, said Antonov invited her to a private demo while she was a college student where he inappropriately touched her underneath her skirt without her permission while she was wearing a VR headset.
Taylor said the incident had made her anxious to attend Oculus events; Antonov was Oculus’ chief software architect, but he left the Facebook-owned company earlier this year.
One of Oculus‘ cofounders has been accused of sexual assault by a woman in the virtual-reality industry. Autumn Rose Taylor, the marketing director for Owlchemy Labs, said that Michael Antonov reached beneath her skirt and touched her inappropriately while she was wearing a VR headset during a private demo several years ago.
In a series of tweets this week about “an important person that I admired,” Taylor said a founder of a well-known VR hardware company invited her to a private demo at his apartment during the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco when she was a college student. She said the man put his hand under her skirt and touched her inappropriately while she was trying the demo.
I was new. I remember trusting them, they’re an important person that I admired. So naive! They showed me VR demos, but put their hands up my skirt while they did so— WHILE I WAS STILL IN VR. The shock and fear of that happening while I was essentially blindfolded.
In a separate statement to Business Insider, Taylor said she met Antonov at an industry after-party at the 2016 Game Developers Conference. She said it was her first major industry event and she was excited to meet one of Oculus’ cofounders — she had gotten her start in VR development using the Oculus Rift DK2. The consumer version of the Rift was scheduled for release weeks after GDC, and Taylor said Antonov offered to give her a private preview of the device.
“He offered to show me unreleased demos and games slated to launch with the Rift later that month,” Taylor said. “I didn’t think this was odd. Just the day prior, I tried a demo in the hotel room of someone I met at another VR mixer. It was a normal demo, nothing strange. Being new to the industry, I thought this was normal.”
Taylor said that after being touched by Antonov she tried to keep her physical distance from him while avoiding eye contact and giving few responses in conversation. Though Taylor said she initially felt too afraid to leave, she left and returned to her hotel room at the first opportunity.
“I felt uncomfortable and scared, but was afraid to refuse his advances — after all, he was a cofounder and executive for one of the biggest VR companies in the world,” Taylor said in her statement. “I was afraid of being blacklisted from the industry I had just joined and was so excited to be a part of. I was afraid of potentially severing a relationship between the VR company I worked for and Oculus. I was just… so afraid.”
Taylor told Business Insider that she was motivated to speak about her experience after seeing multiple women in the gaming industry share their encounters with sexually abusive men. At least three other men in the gaming industry were accused of sexual misconduct on Wednesday.
Business Insider reached out to Antonov through LinkedIn and Facebook Messenger for comment but did not hear back.
Antonov left Oculus and Facebook earlier this year, Facebook confirmed to Business Insider. He is one of Oculus’ original founders along with Palmer Luckey, Nate Mitchell, Brendan Iribe, and Andrew Scott Reisse. Oculus launched with a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 and was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2.3 billion. Mitchell announced his departure from Facebook earlier this month, the last of the five cofounders to leave.
Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of augmented reality and virtual reality, replied to Taylor’s allegations on Twitter and said he had asked internally about how the allegations against Antonov had been handled in the past. Bosworth was named vice president of Facebook’s AR/VR and Oculus division last year and said he would take personal accountability for the company’s culture moving forward.
“These stories are sickening,” Bosworth wrote. “I’m sorry it happened then and that you have to face the trauma again now. I took over our AR/VR and Oculus team in 2018. I do not accept this behavior. I’ve asked to understand how the situations were handled that have been brought up.”
I care deeply about building a safe and inclusive team, and your voices matter. You can hold me accountable if that’s not what you experience with Oculus or AR/VR at Facebook today.
Jennifer Blakely, a former paralegal on Drummond’s team, personally spoke out Wednesday in a Medium post in which she said the chief legal exec fathered a son with her while he was married and later abandoned her and abused her emotionally.
Alphabet’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, gave a personal statement first reported by BuzzFeed News on Thursday in which he said he was “far from perfect,” but he declined to apologize for an extramarital relationship he had with a subordinate at Google.
Drummond, one of the highest-paid executives at Google’s parent company, acknowledged what he described as a “difficult break-up” 10 years ago but said he had a “very different view” of some of the claims made public Wednesday by Jennifer Blakely — a former paralegal on Drummond’s team.
In a remarkable blog post on Wednesday, Blakely said Drummond, then Google’s chief legal exec, fathered a son with her while he was married and then abandoned her and abused her emotionally.
“The abuse of power didn’t stop with being pushed out,” she wrote, referring to leaving her job at Google. “Afterwards I was pushed down, lest I got in the way of the behavior that had become even more oppressive and entitled.”
Google has refused to comment on the matter, which involves allegations about one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives at the company. “We don’t have a statement on this to share,” a Google representative told Business Insider in an email. “We’ve seen that Mr. Drummond has issued a personal statement, see here,” Google said.
The company, which has been rocked by allegations that it protects its male executives who have engaged in sexual misconduct, in some cases giving them huge payouts, declined to make Drummond available for an interview.
Drummond’s statement Thursday, which was tweeted out in full by the BuzzFeed News reporter Ryan Mac, calls into questions some of the claims raised by Blakely’s recent account of their relationship.
“Her account raises many claims about us and other people, including our son and my former wife,” Drummond said in the statement. “As you would expect, there are two sides to all of the conversations and details Jennifer recounts, and I take a very different view about what happened. I have discussed these claims directly with Jennifer, and I addressed the details of our relationship with our employer at the time.”
‘I won’t be getting into a public back and forth about these personal matters’
According to Blakely’s account from Wednesday, Drummond had multiple relationships with other colleagues at Google, including a “personal assistant” who Blakely said moved into one of his homes.
Drummond took issue with the claim, insisting that besides Blakely, he had “never started a relationship” with anyone else at Google or Alphabet. “Any suggestion otherwise is simply untrue,” he said.
Still, the specific phrasing that Drummond — a lawyer by training — used in saying he never “started” a relationship with other Google staffers is likely to raise questions about his forthrightness on the matter.
“I know Jennifer feels wronged and understand that she wants to speak out about it,” Drummond said, “but I won’t be getting in a public back and forth about these personal matters.”
Drummond joined Google in 2002 as head of corporate development, two years before the company’s initial public offering. Over the following years he assumed increasing responsibility, overseeing the legal department and government relations, as Google grew into one of the world’s most valuable companies and restructured into Alphabet.
Here is Drummond’s full statement, as given to BuzzFeed:
It’s not a secret that Jennifer and I had a difficult break-up 10 years ago. I am far from perfect and I regret my part in that.
Her account raises many claims about us and other people, including our son and my former wife. As you would expect, there are two sides to all of the conversations and details Jennifer recounts, and I take a very different view about what happened. I have discussed these claims directly with Jennifer, and I addressed the details of our relationship with our employer at the time.
But I do want to address one claim that touches on professional matters. Other than Jennifer, I never started a relationship with anyone else who was working at Google or Alphabet. Any suggestion otherwise is simply untrue.
I know Jennifer feels wronged and understand that she wants to speak out about it. But I won’t be getting into a public back and forth about these personal matters.