Meta VR ambitions doomed after Carmack leaves

Oculus Quest 2 [Meta]


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High-profile developer John Carmack is leaving Meta as VR development inefficiencies at the tech giant potentially offer hope for Apple's VR efforts to take over initiative.

“This is the end of my decade in VR,” begins Carmack's internal post to Meta employees, before admitting he has “mixed feelings.” The post, published publicly after the initial leak, Carmack's way of saying goodbye to others at the company, continues to critique important issues for Meta VR headset development as well as its metaverse ambitions.

After the leak, Carmack confirmed that he had stepped down as executive VR consultant at Meta.

For Quest 2, Meta's current VR headset available to the public, Carmack is positive about it, stating that it's “almost exactly what I wanted to see from the start.” It consisted of mobile hardware coupled with inside-out tracking, a “4K screen (almost)” and cost-effectiveness.

While it could have been made faster, Carmack calls it a successful product and “pretty close to The Right Thing.”

In October, Meta announced the Quest Pro, a VR headset that will cost consumers $1,499, much more than the Quest 2's $399 price tag. The Quest Pro is a thinner headset with improved full color transmission, thinner lenses, eye tracking systems, and a more powerful processor, among other changes.

Inefficiency is a problem

However, Carmack says that is not the case well with the development of Meta in the field of virtual reality. “The question is our efficiency,” he bluntly admits.

He points to an organization “knowing nothing but inefficiency” and “poorly prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt-tightening.” Clarifying his original point, Carmack says that he cares “deeply about efficiency” and seeing something “extremely inefficient hurts your soul”, which is obviously a problem for the Meta.

With “a ridiculous amount of people and resources” at hand, “we are constantly sabotaging ourselves and wasting effort,” he writes. He then suggests that the organization “runs at half the efficiency that would make me happy.”

The inefficiency has been a “struggle” for the software engineer, who feels he was “obviously not convincing enough” to convince high-level executives to make changes in line with his complaints. Although a small number of the issues he complained about are eventually fixed, he adds, “I could never kill stupid things before they caused damage.”

Carmack claims things could have been better if he had moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition, but instead he continued to code.

He concludes by telling the Meta staff that “the fight can still be won”, and that while one can continue to “move forward with current practices”, there is plenty of room for improvement.

“Make smarter decisions and infuse your products with a careless attitude!” finishes the memo.

After leaving Meta, Carmack is likely to spend more time at his startup Keen Technologies.

Currently Leading

While Meta has a significant presence in the VR market through actual product shipments, it may not be the only ruthless leader for a long time. Apple's own VR headset and augmented reality devices have been in the works for a long time, and its first product could arrive in late 2023.

Current Apple headset rumors include the use of two 4K OLED displays, 15 camera modules, and a chip closer to the M1 in terms of performance than the A-series variants. The initial headset is expected to cost around $3,000.

With the departure of the mainstream voice and VR and AR technology knowledge leaving Meta, along with Apple's apparently inefficient development process, it may not take long for Meta to lose a significant advantage.

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