Last year, former Oculus CTO (and current company adviser) John Carmack threw down the gauntlet for Meta’s near-term metaverse plans. At the 2022 Meta Connect conference, Carmack said last October that he hoped he would be in his helmet, “walking around the [virtual] in theaters or walking around the stage as an avatar in front of thousands of people receiving the stream on multiple platforms.”
Carmack’s vision failed to materialize on Tuesday, as a jerky and clumsy avatar of Carmack gave one of his hour-long unscripted speeches in a deserted VR space, released as a 2D video on Facebook.
“Last year I said I would be disappointed if we didn’t have Connect in Horizon this year,” Carmack said by way of introduction. “Here, that’s not really what I meant. Me being an on-screen avatar on a video for you is basically the same as [just] be on a video.”
This set the tone for a presentation in which Carmack said that “there’s a bunch of things I’m grumpy about” regarding the current state of Meta’s current VR hardware and software. While this curmudgeon was somewhat tempered by talk of recent improvements and hope for the future of VR, Carmack seemed generally frustrated with the direction Meta as a whole is taking its VR endeavors.
Prioritize quantity over quality
Take Horizon Worlds, for example, Meta’s first product for socializing in the enterprise version of the Metaverse. On the one hand, Carmack said watching Mark Zuckerberg’s Connect presentation in a Horizon room alongside a few dozen other people on Tuesday offered “real advantages” over watching that same presentation on a laptop screen. in the middle of his cluttered office.
On the other hand, it’s a far cry from his vision of an “arena-wide stand with thousands of avatars spinning around…at least hundreds in large halls…in a completely evenly shared world”. Carmack said he wanted to “be there with a live audience in a virtual space where anyone who wanted to could stay afterwards and talk for as long as they wanted to.”
“Last year I said I would be disappointed if we didn’t have Connect in Horizon this year…Here, that’s not really what I meant.”
John Carmack, former technical director of Oculus
If you could create a truly virtual conference space like this, “you could just give people a free headset and still come out on top” compared to the hassle of hosting an in-person conference, Carmack said. This type of widely shared world is a difficult technical challenge, Carmack said, and while Horizon “certainly can’t handle it now…it’s not an insurmountable challenge. [challenge].”
Carmack also mentioned a “public mockery of avatar quality earlier this year,” an apparent reference to a sketchy Mark Zuckerberg avatar that went viral in August after Meta shared it online. This reaction caused “a lot of people internally [to be] paranoid about showing anything other than the highest quality avatars.”
But Carmack expressed some skepticism about this push for avatar loyalty. He expressed a preference for spaces filled with lots of low-detail avatars at Meta’s push for the kind of almost photorealistic “codec avatars” that consume too much CPU power to allow crowded virtual rooms. “We have a limited amount of resources on our headsets here, and cloud rendering won’t save us in many cases,” Carmack said. “I’m definitely leaning towards optimizing quantity, not quality.”
And while Carmack said he was happy with the current state of Meta’s avatars, he noted that his Connect presentation was taking place in a “customized version of Horizon” designed to ensure his avatar’s level of detail never drops. . He also turned off the much-vaunted face-tracking features of his Quest Pro headset because, with the software’s current state, “there’s at least a decent chance I’ll do something very embarrassing” in a very public setting. .