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Oculus CTO skeptical about Facebook's metaverse undertaking

"I hope I can harness all the crisis energy with the metaverse that's going on," said John Carmack, who has been serving as a consulting CTO for Oculus since 2019.

Mark Zuckerberg introducing the Meta name
Mark Zuckerberg speaks at the Facebook Connect event on Thursday.
Facebook/Screenshot by CNET

Mark Zuckerberg's decision to rebrand Facebook to Meta dominated headlines Thursday, and Zuckerberg spoke at length about his vision for the metaverse, a virtual world where people might someday work and socialize. Less noticed were skeptical remarks by John Carmack, consulting CTO at Facebook's Oculus unit, which focuses on virtual reality.

The occasion was the Facebook Connect conference on VR and augmented reality. 

The comments from Carmack, who served as Oculus CTO for about six years before shifting to a consulting CTO position, seemed to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the social networking giant. Carmack spoke for more than two hours in a candid and wide-ranging chat that covered topics from Oculus Quest headsets to his skeptical views on Facebook's metaverse efforts. A famed video game designer, Carmack is well known for his graphics wizardry in the pioneering Doom series, which inspired popular first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. 

Here are some of the main things Carmack spoke about in his off-the-cuff style that might have Facebook's PR executives working overtime for the next few days.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Carmack speaking during Facebook Connect 2021.

John Carmack speaking during Facebook Connect 2021.

Facebook/Screenshot by Sareena Dayaram

Doubtful about Facebook's metaverse plan

Carmack deviated from Facebook's official stance about its metaverse development, saying he "actively argues against every single metaverse effort" that Facebook has tried to spin up internally. Carmack explained that he cares deeply about the metaverse and its potential, but that setting out to build the metaverse isn't actually the best way to get there. Instead, he said, his biggest advice is to focus on products to tap into it, rather than technology architecture and initiatives. 

"My worry is that we could spend years, and thousands of people possibly, and wind up with things that didn't contribute all that much to the way people are using devices and hardware today," Carmack said.

"I hope I can harness all the crisis energy with the metaverse that's going on," he said.  

New headsets are coming: Will the Oculus 2 still be the centerpiece of Facebook's VR and AR ambitions?

Although Facebook is now parting ways with the brand name Oculus, the company seems to be going full steam ahead with the headset division as it propels itself further into AR and VR. Carmack revealed that the company has "multiple headsets" in the pipeline that will be styled in a way that is metaverse-oriented, but made no attempt to hide his disapproval of Facebook's approach. "I really don't like that, and I keep pushing back whenever I hear that," he said.

Carmack worries that the new headsets will be an expensive endeavor that isn't necessary or central to the metaverse experience. Instead, he believes all of this will work "just fine" on Facebook's well-received Oculus Quest 2, which CNET Editor-at-Large Scott Stein called a "technological marvel" that is better, faster and cheaper than its predecessor, the original Oculus.