Virtual Reality

Once a true VR believer, a ‘tired’ John Carmack leaves Meta

Artist's conception of Carmack's VR avatar greeting Meta.
Enlarge / Artist’s conception of Carmack’s VR avatar greeting Meta.

After almost ten years, John Carmack’s time helping to guide VR hardware efforts at Meta (and at Facebook/Oculus before that) has come to an end. The co-founder of id Software and Loss co-creator officially left Meta on Friday night, according to an internal company note obtained by Insider and confirmed by the New York Times.

by Carmack leaving message serves as a scathing indictment of crippling inefficiency at Meta which he said he was “offended” and compared to a GPU with a miserable five percent utilization rate. “We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we are constantly self-sabotaging and wasting our efforts. There is no way to sugarcoat this,” he wrote. “I think our organization is operating at half the efficiency that would make me happy.”

More personally, Carmack complained that it has been a “struggle” for him to influence the general direction of Meta and that he is “fighting tired”. Despite its high rank “CTO consultant / executive advisor” title, Carmack complained that he was “obviously not persuasive enough” to improve Meta’s VR efforts.

If this kind of talk sounds familiar to you, it might be because Carmack voiced similar complaints in his October speech on Meta Connect. There he talked about his internal efforts to push for the development of a “super cheap and super light” Meta VR headset that could cost “$250 and 250 grams”. Instead, Meta has put its recent VR hardware efforts behind the heavily over-engineered, $1,500 Quest Pro. “We don’t build that [cheap, light] helmet today, but I keep trying,” Carmack said with some exasperation during the keynote.

In his departure post, Carmack had kind words for the best-selling Meta Quest 2 helmetwhich he called a successful good product that has “[made] the world a better place. In his October keynote, however, Carmack also bluntly told Meta that “Quest’s core usability really needs to improve” and that “our app startup times are slow, our transitions are glitchy… We have to make it much better…much, much faster to get into it.”

Oculus CTO John Carmack couldn't walk down the hallway of the Oculus Connect 2016 conference without being mobbed by onlookers.  He was happy to hold court for long impromptu question-and-answer sessions.
Enlarge / Oculus CTO John Carmack couldn’t walk down the hallway of the Oculus Connect 2016 conference without being mobbed by onlookers. He was happy to hold the court for long impromptu question-and-answer sessions.

By the end of 2021, Carmack also had a few words of warning like facebook changed its name to Meta and spun completely behind the amorphous idea of ​​the metaverse. Carmack said we should be wary of “architectural astronauts” who make a lot of high-profile waves instead of creating viable products that customers find useful.

To that end, Carmack threw down a public gauntlet to his fellow Meta employees, saying “we should do [Facebook Connect] in the metaverse” for the 2022 show. When Carmack showed up in an empty room as an awkward avatar for the 2022 keynote, however, he said upfront that “this here, this is not that’s not really what I meant.

In an august podcast interviewCarmack said the nearly $1 billion Meta loses each month on its virtual reality efforts makes it “sick of [his] stomach… But this is how they demonstrate their commitment to it… Google goes and cancels all these projects, while Meta really sticks to funding VR and AR even more far.”

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