- 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.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
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.
Though Taylor left Michael Antonov’s name out of her initial thread, she named him as the subject of her tweets in a follow-up message several hours later.
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.
— Autumn Rose Taylor ? #OC6 (@lusterly_) August 27, 2019
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.
— Boz (@boztank) August 28, 2019