A senior engineer on Facebook’s Oculus team was arrested in a sting operation for soliciting sex from a minor.
Seattle Police arrested Katz on Dec. 23 in a sting operation where an undercover cop posed as a minor. Katz majored in computer science at the University of Tel Aviv, before moving to the US where he pursued higher education and joined the Oculus team in 2013.
Here’s what you need to know about Oculus’s Head of Computer Vision:
1. Katz Solicited an Undercover Cop Posing as a 15-Year-Old Girl
The Tukwila, Washington Anti-Crime team oversaw the sting operation in which detectives posted an ad on Backpage soliciting patrons for sex. Katz responded to the ad and messaged Officer Sudel, who posed as a 15-year-old.
According to TechCrunch, Katz agreed to pay $300 for sex without a condom. Katz arrived at the Embassy Suites Hotel at 15920 West Valley Highway and was arrested when he arrived in front of the room. Katz said he was there to save the girl, but police found $600 on his person. He will be arraigned on January 5 and his bail is set at $125,000.
Here’s a copy of the Police report:
2. Katz Helped Create an Immersive VR Environment as an Oculus Engineer
Katz joined the Oculus VR team in 2013, a year before Facebook bought the company for $2 billion. According to Katz’s LinkedIn profile, he was promoted from Senior Vision Engineer to Head of Computer Vision in July 2014, the same month Facebook closed the acquisition.
As Head of Computer Vision, Katz is in charge of making VR a less jarring and more immersive experience. In a presentation last May he addressed challenges of virtual reality such as delayed responses in the 3D environment as well as difficulty in accurately mapping motions. He said the early prototype Oculus Rift DK-1 couldn’t track all the user’s motions. Unlike a 3D movie experience where all effects are external, virtual reality should be entirely immersive, Katz told the Times of Israel. According to the description of the YouTube video, Katz’s specialty is human and computer vision.
At Oculus, he developed a high precision – low latency optical position tracking system. He is currently engaged in several projects that will deliver a more immersive and intuitive VR experience.
3. The Sting Was Part of a Buyer Beware Operation That Targets Sex Buyers
The arrest is part of a King County program cracking down on sex buyers. Since Operation ‘Buyer Beware’ launched in 2014, arrests of men soliciting sex have increased, while arrests of prostitutes have fallen. According to a presentation this year from the county, detectives would get 200 to 250 responses to an ad within two hours. In 2015, around 45 charges were filed against men trying to buy sex from minors in King County and no charges were filed against prostituted minors.
4. The 38-Year-Old Tech Executive is An Israeli Citizen Living in California
The Israeli-born Oculus Rift engineer lives in California. He knows English, French and Hebrew and has experience with Hebrew programming languages, according to his Curriculum Vitaie. Katz told The Times of Israel he would like to return to Israel at some point and challenged the perception that Israel doesn’t provide enough opportunities for fresh grads.
“I know that people in Israel are very concerned with ‘brain drain,’ and how the lack of opportunities is driving promising students out of the country, but I didn’t find that to be the case,” Katz said. “It’s been a very enjoyable adventure, but home is home, and I plan to return at some point.”
5. Katz Completed his Graduate Degree and Post-Doc in the United States
In an interview with the Times of Israel, Katz credited his education at Tel Aviv University for providing him a strong background in virtual reality systems. After completing his Bachelors in computer science and electrical and electronics engineering, Katz went on to pursue a graduate’s degree at University of Amherst Massachusetts and then a post-doc at the Carnegie Mellon University. As a post-doc fellow at the Robotics Institute, he created computer vision and machine learning algorithms, according to his bio page.
My goal is to enable machines to intelligently interpret visual information in our everyday environments. This will enable exciting applications such as home robotics, space exploration, flexible manafacturing, autonomous driving, video understanding, and search & rescue robotics.
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