As reported by the New York Times (opens in a new tab) (readers may encounter a paywall), John Carmack has left his position at Meta. Carmack had previously been CTO for Oculus, and stayed with the company after the acquisition of Facebook (now Meta) in 2014.
After Carmack’s internal announcement of his departure was leaked to the press, the developer published it in its entirety on its public Facebook (opens in a new tab) account, declaring “This is the end of my decade in VR. I have mixed feelings.”
Carmack praises the Quest 2 as a piece of hardware, writing that the headset “is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning—mobile hardware, inside-out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k(ish) display, cost-effective.” While Carmack has misgivings about the software, he is encouraged by the Quest line’s sales success and mass adoption.
“The problem,” writes Carmack, “is our efficiency.” The programmer refers to Meta as “an organization that has only known inefficiency.”
“We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources,” Carmack continues later in the post, “but we’re constantly self-sabotaging and wasting effort,” adding that he believes Meta is “operating at half the efficiency that would [him] happy.”
Carmack goes on to elaborate that while he is an influential voice at Meta, he has never been “a prime mover.” He seems to indicate that corporate politics was never his specialty and that he preferred to focus on the technology.
However, the post ends on an optimistic note, with Carmack saying that Meta is still poised to lead the world in VR implementation as long as those at the company “Make better decisions and fill [their] products with “Give a Damn!”
Carmack is best known as one of the co-founders of id Software, where he led the development of the technology behind classics such as Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake, and laid much of the foundation for modern 3D rendering. In addition to his development contributions at Oculus/Meta, Carmack’s involvement with the companies and advocacy for VR lent credibility to their projects as VR struggled with mass adoption for much of the past decade.
Carmack’s focus now is the startup Keen Technologies (opens in a new tab), presumably named after id’s early platformer series, Commander Keen. Keen’s focus is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), a branch of AI focused on mimicking the holistic, adaptive intelligence of a human, as opposed to the pursuit of narrower applications such as AI art generation or graphical and scientific simulations.
It’s hard for me to read this as anything other than a defeat for Meta, a defeat that comes at an unfortunate time for the company. Hardware loss leaders are common in gaming, but as of July, Meta’s Reality Lab division was losing nearly $1 billion each month (opens in a new tab). Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees (opens in a new tab) in November, as political and privacy concerns continue to dog Facebook and Instagram, and the company’s previews of the “metaverse” have been widely mocked (opens in a new tab).