In short: Once again, John Carmack expresses some caution about Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse ambitions, while still maintaining hope for the overall concept. While Zuckerberg and others espouse lofty conceptual dreams, Carmack seems focused on the nuts and bolts.
Oculus CTO, Meta “executive advisor” and legendary game developer John Carmack expressed a healthy mix of skepticism and optimism for Meta’s development of VR and Metaverse apps this week. Although he was not entirely satisfied with the company’s progress, he spoke positively of some progress.
Carmack delivered an hour-long keynote at the recent Meta Connect 2022 conference, explaining Meta’s latest VR developments as well as its goals for VR. He started the conversation by pointing out that the presentation had missed some of the goals he set out last year.
During his 2021 conference keynote, Carmack said he wanted to present the 2022 conference on a virtual stage in front of thousands of avatars representing users watching in real time in the metaverse. Instead, this year’s presentation is simply a live video of Carmack’s avatar, which he considers no different from a live stream.
From there, Carmack launches into an in-depth technical discussion of Meta’s latest developments in VR hardware and software. One of its main themes is that developers should focus on what they can achieve now rather than their long-term goals.
The comments contrast in an interesting way with some other parts of this week’s conference. Mark Zuckerberg appeared to demonstrate Meta VR avatars with legs, even though the company’s current technology cannot accurately track a user’s legs. Finally, Meta confirmed to UploadVR that the demo’s virtual legs moved so easily because they used motion capture, which was equivalent to a target rendering. Carmack’s avatar in his speech is just a floating torso.
Additionally, Carmack seemed to clash with Meta’s push for photorealistic avatars. While the “Codec Avatars” project in development showed incredibly detailed virtual faces, Carmack said he preferred to focus on rendering large numbers of computationally inexpensive avatars using affordable hardware.
While Meta used the conference to unveil the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro, Carmack reiterated his desire to focus on increasing the number of prices to offer VR headsets. While the Meta Quest 2 – the most popular VR headset – recently raised its base price to $400, Carmack wants to offer a $250 headset one day. He also wants headsets to be more comfortable and easier to set up. Meta is currently prepping Meta Quest 3 for next year, likely at a much lower price point than Quest Pro to succeed Quest 2.
Carmack’s call for a measured pace in VR and metaverse development echoes what he said last year about metaverse apps. Instead of immediately pushing for a generalized metaverse world, Carmack said the clear path is for the concept to emerge from an existing popular game or app, like Roblox. He compared this to his development of Doom and Quake in the 1990s, which created technology that became useful elsewhere.
Other people in the video game industry have expressed similar opinions. In February, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the Financial Times that the challenges of developing Metaverse sound like challenges Microsoft’s games are already trying to solve. In March, former Nintendo of America president Reggie Threads-Aimé said that Fortnite and Roblox are pushing the metaverse better than Meta is currently doing.