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Once a VR true believer, a “wearied” John Carmack leaves Meta

Artist's conception of Carmack's VR avatar waving goodbye to Meta.
Enlarge / Artist’s conception of Carmack’s VR avatar waving goodbye to Meta.

After nearly ten years, John Carmack’s time helping to guide VR hardware efforts at Meta (and at Facebook/Oculus before that) have come to a close. The id Software co-founder and Doom co-creator officially left Meta on Friday night, according to an internal company memo obtained by Insider and confirmed by the New York Times.

Carmack’s departure message serves as a scathing indictment of crippling inefficiency at Meta that he said he was “offended by” and which he compared to a GPU with a measly five percent utilization rate. “We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this,” he wrote. “I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy.”

More personally, Carmack complained that it has been a “struggle” for him to influence Meta’s overall direction and that he’s “wearied of the fight.” Despite his high-ranking “consulting CTO / executive advisor” title, Carmack complained that he is “evidently not persuasive enough” to change Meta’s VR efforts for the better.

If that kind of talk sounds familiar, it might be because Carmack voiced similar complaints in his October Meta Connect keynote. There he talked about his internal efforts to push for the development of a “super cheap, super lightweight” Meta VR headset that could come in at “$250 and 250 grams.” Instead, Meta has put its recent VR hardware efforts behind the heavily overdesigned and $1,500 Quest Pro. “We’re not building that [cheap, light] headset today, but I keep trying,” Carmack said with some exasperation during the keynote.

In his departure message, Carmack had some kind words for the strong-selling Meta Quest 2 headset, which he called a good, successful product that has “[made] the world a better place.” In his October keynote, though, Carmack also bluntly told Meta that “the basic usability of Quest really does need to get better” and that “our app startup times are slow, our transitions are glitchy… We need to make it a whole lot better… much, much faster to get into.”

Oculus CTO John Carmack couldn't walk down the hall of the 2016 Oculus Connect conference without being mobbed by onlookers. He was happy to hold court for long impromptu Q&A sessions.
Enlarge / Oculus CTO John Carmack couldn’t walk down the hall of the 2016 Oculus Connect conference without being mobbed by onlookers. He was happy to hold court for long impromptu Q&A sessions.

Back in late 2021, Carmack also had some words of warning as Facebook changed its named to Meta and pivoted fully behind the amorphous idea of the metaverse. Carmack said we should be wary of “architecture astronauts” who do a lot of high-level hand-waving instead of building viable products that customers find useful.

To that end, Carmack threw down a public gauntlet for his fellow Meta employees, saying that “we should be doing [Facebook Connect] in the metaverse” for the 2022 show. When Carmack showed up in an empty room as an awkward-looking avatar for the 2022 keynote, though, he said up front that “this here, this isn’t really what I meant.”

In an August podcast interview, Carmack said that the nearly $1 billion Meta is losing every month on its VR efforts makes him “sick to [his] stomach… But that’s how they demonstrate commitment to this … Google goes and cancels all these projects, while Meta is really sticking with the funding of VR and AR even further out with it.”

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