VR and Mainstream: High-end won’t cut it, according to Carmack
Does virtual reality need advanced, new hardware features for a breakthrough? John Carmack is skeptical.
Ten years have passed since Palmer Luckey and John Carmack demonstrated the Oculus Rift prototype at E3. This triggered a VR hype without which the industry would probably look very different today.
Now Carmack is commenting on Twitter about the market’s performance in recent years. “There were definitely a few squandered years. PC could have been cheaper and less hardware demanding, stand-alone could have gotten more support earlier, and Android could have been openly embraced for non-gaming applications.”
The future Oculus chief technology officer had bet on mobile virtual reality early on and was a major contributor to the development of Meta Quest. Success proved him right: in 2020, Meta abandoned its Oculus Rift PC VR product line to focus entirely on more promising standalone VR headsets. Those have since sold millions of units.
“Quest has everything it needs to succeed”
Project Cambria (info) will, in a sense, succeed the Oculus Rift this year, offering high-end features with a standalone form factor. Are new, sophisticated sensors the key to virtual reality’s continued success? Carmack is skeptical.
“I don’t think high end hardware is the path to a broad market. I would be happy to see the Quest capabilities just get better / faster / lighter / cheaper,” Carmack wrote on Twitter.
He repeats his thesis from Connect 2021: that the Meta Quest has all the important hardware features and basic requirements for mainstream success and only needs to be improved further for a significant increase in success.
Cambria is Meta’s high-end bet
Cambria brings with it a host of new sensors: four pieces for augmented reality alone, plus more sensors for tracking the eyes and face.
Carmack isn’t sure if the new capabilities are critical to growing the market, or if they justify the manufacturing costs. Cambria will cost many times more than Meta Quest 2 and therefore reach fewer people. Carmack estimates it could become as little as 10 percent of the Quest customer base.
“But I can be wrong. So we’re running the experiment with a higher end headset coming up next. We will see how much value it adds to people”, Carmack said at Connect 2021.