In short: John Carmack once again expresses some caution about Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse ambitions, while still holding out hopes for the overall concept. While Zuckerberg and others harbor high 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 this week about Meta’s development of VR and Metaverse apps. While not completely satisfied with the company’s progress, he spoke positively of some progress being made.
Carmack delivered a one-hour keynote address at the recent Meta Connect 2022 conference, explaining Meta’s recent VR developments and goals for VR. He started the conversation by pointing out that the presentation had missed some of the goals he had set last year.
Speaking at his keynote address for the 2021 conference, Carmack said he wanted to present the 2022 conference on a virtual stage in front of thousands of avatars representing users looking into the metaverse in real time. Instead, this year’s presentation is just a live video of Carmack’s avatar, which he says is nothing more than a live stream.
From there, Carmack launches an in-depth technical review of Meta’s recent advances in VR hardware and software. One of the main themes is that developers should focus on what they can achieve now rather than on their long-term goals.
The comments contrast interestingly with some of the other parts of this week’s conference. Mark Zuckerberg appeared to be demonstrating Meta VR avatars with legs, although the company’s current technology cannot accurately track a user’s legs. In the end, 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 upper body.
In addition, Carmack seemed to clash with Meta’s pursuit of photorealistic avatars. While the ongoing “Codec Avatars” project showed incredibly detailed virtual faces, Carmack said he preferred to focus on rendering large numbers of computationally cheap 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 at which VR headsets can be offered. While the Meta Quest 2 — the most popular VR headset — recently raised its base price to $400, Carmack wants to one day offer a $250 headset. He also wants headsets to become more comfortable and easier to set up. Meta is currently preparing the Meta Quest 3 for next year, probably at a much lower price than the Quest Pro to follow up on Quest 2.
Carmack’s call for a measured pace of VR and metaverse development echoes what he said about metaverse apps last year. Rather than immediately pushing for a generalized metaverse world, Carmack said the clear path is that the concept stems from an existing popular game or app, such as Roblox. He compared this to his development of Doom and Quake in the 1990s, which created technology that became useful in other places.
Other people in the video game industry have expressed similar opinions. In February, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the Financial Times that the challenges in developing the Metaverse sound like challenges Microsoft’s games are already trying to solve. In March, Reggie Threads-Aimé, former president of Nintendo of America, said Fortnite and Roblox are pushing the metaverse better than Meta is currently doing.