Picture: Lex Fridman
Virtual reality pioneer John Carmack is leaving Meta for good. With his departure, the industry loses a visionary and an important voice.
Carmack posted his farewell letter on Facebook after parts of the email leaked to the press.
In the message to employees, Carmack, as usual, doesn’t mince words. He cites a lack of efficiency and his inability to change anything at this circumstance as reasons.
“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we’re constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting our efforts. There’s no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the efficiency that would make me happy,” Carmack writes. “It’s been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the top level here, so I feel like I should be able to get things done, but obviously I’m not persuasive enough.
Tired of fighting, Carmack says he has his own business to run. But the battle for VR success is always winnable, he says.
“Enough complaints. I got tired of the fight and I have my own startup to launch, but the fight is always winnable! Virtual reality can bring value to most people around the world, and no company is better positioned to do so than Meta. »
Carmack also cites positives. Meta Quest 2, he says, turned out to be a “good product” and close to what he wanted from the start. “Everything could have happened a little faster and gone better if different decisions had been made, but we built something quite close to The Right Thing.”
Carmack’s VR Career: From Pioneer to Critic
Carmack spent a little more than a decade in the virtual reality industry and played a major role in its formation. In 2012, the legendary developer sparked the virtual reality hype, joined Oculus a year later as chief technology officer, and remained in that role after Facebook acquired the company. He led the development of Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Go, two VR headsets that paved the way for Meta Quest.
Carmack’s vision from the start was that virtual reality should be self-contained: no cables, no external sensors, and no connection to external drives. An intuition that then turned out to be at the forefront and made Meta Quest 2 the most successful VR headset to date.
At the end of 2019, he gave up his role as technical director of Oculus to devote himself to the development of artificial intelligence. From then on, he worked for Meta as an external consultant. In August, Carmack wrote that he was still spending about 20% of his working time on VR and AR projects for the company.
Carmack and Zuckerberg are at odds
Lately, Carmack has been increasingly critical of Meta. In one interview with podcaster Lex Fridmanthe programmer lamented the high expense and waste of resources.
Carmack is known for his honest and candid talks on the state of the industry, which he gives every year at Meta’s VR and AR conference. In his final speech in October, he also spoke candidly about the company’s failures.
I thought the “derivative of delivered value” was positive in 2021, but turned negative in 2022. There’s good reason to believe it just got back into positive territory, but there’s a gap notable between Mark Zuckerberg and me on various strategies
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) December 17, 2022
On Twitter, he details the reasons for his departure and alludes to disagreements with Zuckerberg. “There is a noticeable gap between Mark Zuckerberg and me on various strategic issues, so I knew it would be even more frustrating to continue to push my point internally.”
Carmack now wants to devote itself fully to the development of generalist artificial intelligence with its AI startup Keen Technologies.
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