Oculus CTO and VR pioneer John Carmack is stepping away

This directly impacts Sansar and High Fidelity and insures that they still have a long way to go before we can see mainstream VR on these platforms or it seems at least with Oculus.

John Carmack, VR Pioneer Who Once Described Developing VR as a “Moral Imperative”, No Longer Focused on Developing VR

John Carmack Oculus Rift CTO

Oculus CTO and VR pioneer John Carmack is stepping almost completely away from the company and virtual reality development in general to go in a totally different direction:

Starting this week, I’m moving to a “Consulting CTO” position with Oculus.

I will still have a voice in the development work, but it will only be consuming a modest slice of my time.

As for what I am going to be doing with the rest of my time: When I think back over everything I have done across games, aerospace, and VR, I have always felt that I had at least a vague “line of sight” to the solutions, even if they were unconventional or unproven. I have sometimes wondered how I would fare with a problem where the solution really isn’t in sight. I decided that I should give it a try before I get too old. I’m going to work on artificial general intelligence (AGI).

I’m not sure how many people in the VR industry grasp the significance of this move. The announcement comes only days after Carmack said this about the current state of VR:

“I’m often kind of grumpy around the office because I really haven’t been satisfied with the pace of progress that we’ve been making. When I’m in VR I see the magic there, but my brain is always throwing up these giant ‘to do’ Post-It Notes on top of everything, reminding me of all the work that’s yet to be done.”

Putting the two statements together, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Carmack has decided that virtual reality won’t or can’t be improved, or sufficiently matured into a mass market product, within the span of his career. And so instead, he’s devoting the rest of his work energies to developing AI.

The statements also stand in sharp contrast to how Carmack fairly recently described the importance of bringing VR to the masses — as “a moral imperative”.

As he explained  Wired article back in 2016:


“VIRTUAL REALITY WILL dramatically transform movies and gaming, but some see an even loftier goal for the burgeoning technology: Providing the world’s poor and underprivileged with a better life. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus Rift, and his chief technology officer, John Carmack, even speak of a “moral imperative” to bring virtual reality to the masses.

Carmack, a pioneer in 3-D graphics, has championed this mission for some two decades, but only recently has the underlying technology reached a price point where VR headsets can cost as little as a cheap smartphone. And that, he says, makes it possible for virtual reality to improve the real lives of people worldwide, even the less fortunate.

“These are devices that you could imagine almost everyone in the world owning,” Carmack says. “This means that some fraction of the desirable experiences of the wealthy can be synthesized and replicated for a much broader range of people.”

Somewhere since then, it seems, that moral imperative became less imperative. It’s possible he still believes in VR with the same zeal, but just lost interest in developing it on a daily basis. One insider suggested to me that Oculus’ development and launch of the Quest — a greatly reduced (if relatively popular) vision of virtual reality — might have been a touch too demoralizing for his aspirations. In any case, the VR industry is losing one of its leading lights.

Have a great week from all of the staff at Zoha Islands and Fruit Islands.