John Carmack expresses disappointment and caution in the development of the Metaverse
In short: Once again, John Carmack expresses some caution about Mark Zuckerberg’s ambitions for the Metaverse, but still harbors hope for the overall concept. While Zuckerberg and others are dreaming of high concepts, Carmack seems to have focused on nuts and bolts.
Oculus CTO, Meta “executive advisor” and legendary game developer John Carmack this week formulated a healthy mix of skepticism and optimism about the development of Meta VR and Metaverse apps. Although he is not entirely happy with the company’s progress, he was positive about some of the achievements.
Carmack delivered hour-long keynote during a recent Conference Meta Connect 2022, explaining the Meta’s recent developments in VR as well as its goals for VR. He began by pointing out that the presentation had missed some of the goals he had set last year.
In his keynote address at the 2021 conference, Carmack said he wants to give the 2022 talk 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 streamed video of Carmack’s avatar, which he believes is no different from a live broadcast.
From there, Carmack moves on to an in-depth technical discussion of Meta’s latest developments in VR hardware and software. One of his main themes is that developers should focus on what they can achieve now, not on their long-term goals.
The comments contrast interestingly with some of the other segments of this week’s conference. Mark Zuckerberg showed off Meta VR avatars with feet, although the company’s current technology can’t accurately track a user’s feet. After all, Meta confirmed UploadVR that the virtual legs in the demo moved so smoothly because they used the motion capture that makes up the render target. Carmack’s avatar in his keynote speech is just a floating upper body.
In addition, Carmack seemed to be at odds with the Meta’s desire for photorealistic avatars. While the Codec Avatars project is under development boasted impressively detailed virtual faces, Carmack said he would rather focus on rendering a large number of computationally inexpensive avatars using available hardware.
While Meta used the conference to unveil the $1,500 Meta Quest Pro, Carmack reaffirmed his desire to focus on increasing the number of price points at which VR headsets can be offered. While the Meta Quest 2 – the most popular VR headset – recently increased 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 preparing Meta Quest 3 for next year, likely at a much lower price than Quest Pro to replace Quest 2.
Carmack’s call for a measured pace of development of virtual reality and the metaverse echoes his words last year regarding applications of the metaverse. Rather than immediately insisting on 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, when technologies were created that became useful elsewhere.
Other members of the video game industry expressed similar views. In February, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told the Financial Times that the challenges of developing the metaverse sound like the challenges Microsoft games are already working to solve. In March, former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé said that Fortnite and Roblox are pushing the metaverse better than the Meta is currently doing.