Inside Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall
Palmer Luckey—yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy—hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering. A human is making his way through the rugged sagebrush, a scene captured by cameras on a tower behind me. To his right I see another green box, this one labeled ANIMAL 86%. Zooming in on it brings up a photo of a calf, grazing a bit outside its usual range.
The system I’m trying out is Luckey’s solution to how the US should detect unauthorized border crossings. It merges VR with surveillance tools to create a digital wall that is not a barrier so much as a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees. Luckey’s company, Anduril Industries, is pitching its technology to the Department of Homeland Security as a complement to—or substitute for—much of President Trump’s promised physical wall along the border with Mexico.