VR pioneer John Carmack expressed himself critical of Facebook’s Metaverse plans in his Connect keynote. He believes in the idea of the metaverse, Carmack said on the livestream. But he considers Facebook’s approach to be wrong: The metaverse cannot simply be built out of the ground, but must develop from other applications over time.
After his time at the game developer id Software, Carmack was Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Oculus VR. He held this position after the takeover by Facebook before stepping down in 2019 to focus more on AI research. Since then he has been run as the “advisory CTO” of Facebook’s VR department. In this role, he spoke openly about the company’s Metaverse plans at Facebook’s Connect conference.
“I really care about the metaverse and I believe in the vision,” said Carmack. Internally, however, he always resisted his development. Carmack believes the metaverse must emerge as a by-product of technology being developed for other applications. On the other hand, he is critical of the direct path that Facebook is taking: “Setting out to develop the metaverse is not the best way to actually get the metaverse.”
“Honey pot for architecture astronauts”
Carmack then clearly directed himself against people whom he referred to as “Architecture Astronauts”. He means programmers and designers who only look at developments in an abstract way – like astronauts from high above – without dealing with the practical implementation of their ambitious visions.
“The Metaverse is a honey pot, a trap for such architecture astronauts,” complained Carmack in his keynote. The message is clear: According to Carmack, the only way to get to the Metaverse is to take it step by step. This can be understood as a criticism of Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg, who loftily promised an omnipresent metaverse on Facebook Connect for the next five to ten years.
“But that’s the way it is: Mark Zuckerberg has decided that now is the time to build the Metaverse,” continued Carmack. It is now necessary to use the company’s massive resources as skilfully as possible. His advice: Facebook should focus on developing actual products as an intermediate step on the way to the metaverse, without getting lost in technology, architecture and initiatives. Carmack praises the added value of Metaverse predecessors such as “Horizon Worlds” and the meeting application “Horizon Workrooms”.
Evolution of social media
The Metaverse is a planned VR world by Facebook, in which people can play, talk and explore – a kind of Second Life in virtual reality. Zuckerberg sees this as the evolution of social media. However, Facebook’s Metaversum faces technical challenges, among other things: Current VR glasses are far from being seamlessly integrated into the everyday life of the wearer. Facebook’s own Oculus headsets are also bulky, technically limited and have to be connected to the power after two hours of operation.
Facebook’s Oculus department is working on a new VR headset called Cambria that will bring some features intended for the Metaverse. This includes, for example, sensors that can record the facial expressions of the wearer. But such features are not necessarily needed for the metaverse, believes Carmack. He hopes that the Metaverse will not only run on high-end headsets in the future, but also on cheaper devices.