Twitter fires its new head of VR... in the same week it hired him

Lynsey Barber
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Virtual reality is taking off this year with the launch of several headsets (Source: Getty)

Twitter is ploughing on into the world of virtual reality, though it faced a small setback today after announcing it had fired its new head of VR (roughly 48 hours after he started his new job).

A Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, Gregory Gopman, had joined the struggling social network to work on a nascent team charged with exploring virtual reality and augmented reality.

But a rant about San Francisco's homeless population was dredged up by TechCrunch and he was promptly sacked from his position. Gopman said in a Facebook post: "Anddd I’m fired. Thanks TechCrunch."

Twitter hired former Apple designer Alessandro Sabatelli as its head of VR and AR at the start of the year and the push ahead into VR builds upon the strategy of returned chief executive Jack Dorsey to focus on live video.

Read more: Salesforce shares jump as boss unfollows Twitter, ruling out takeover bid

Since then the social network has signed a deal to stream NFL football, which drew more than 2m viewers, and will live stream video from election night of the US Presidential campaign with Buzzfeed.

The media company called Twitter "the beating heart of the election", while Bloomberg live streamed the Presidential debates between rivals Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

The Twitter VR team sits within its Cortex engineering arm, which also recently added expertise in artificial intelligence after acquiring British startup Magic Pony earlier in the year. It's expertise is in applying machine learning to speed up video streaming.

Read more: MPs have blasted Twitter over failure to tackle anti-Semitism

Twitter is among the bidders for India Premier League cricket in its latest video move. It faces stiff competition from Amazon and Facebook, as well as established players such as ESPN, BT and Sky.

Facebook's own live video streaming efforts have helped propel the company's success. It has also made headway with VR-lite 360 video while it has its own VR hardware capabilities with Oculus.

Dorsey's video push has not yet spurred the turnaround investors were hoping for, however. Salesforce, the most likely company to buy it up, last week ruled out making an offer, saying it "wasn't the right fit".

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