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John Carmack announces departure from Meta and VR development

John Carmack has left Meta due to problems with inefficiency. (Image: stock image w/ edits)
John Carmack has left Meta due to problems with inefficiency. (Image: stock image w/ edits)
John Carmack has resigned from Meta and the development team behind the Meta Quest VR headset. Citing inefficiency problems that plague the company as a whole and VR development specifically, Carmack has quit Meta to work on his AI-focused startup.

John Carmack, the visionary programmer behind revolutionary games like Doom and a lead consultant of the Meta Quest VR headset, has left Meta. 

In a scathing letter he later posted to Facebook, Carmack cited inefficiency in the company as the primary reason behind his departure, ending his 9-year stint developing VR headsets. 

In his letter to the company, Carmack stated he was pleased with the production of the Meta Quest 2 headset. However, he railed against what he called "inefficiencies" in the company that ultimately motivated him to leave Meta. 

Speaking metaphorically, Carmack stated it was "the personal pain of seeing a 5% GPU utilization number in production" that frustrated him the most. Carmack thinks that Meta "is operating at half the effectiveness that would make [him] happy." He also said he felt frustrated that people would not listen to his complaints about improving efficiency and how company resources were used. 

Carmack finished off his letter by calling on Meta to "make better decisions and fill [their] products with 'Give a Damn!'"

John Carmack is perhaps most famous for developing groundbreaking games in the 1990s, including Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom 2, and Quake. Carmack joined Oculus, which was later acquired by Meta (then Facebook) in 2013. He stepped down from his role as the Chief Technology Officer in 2019 to focus on artificial intelligence development. He started his own company, Keen Technologies, to further AI development in August of this year. Carmack will pivot to focus on work at Keen Technologies. 

You can read Carmack's letter in its entirety in the Press Release section below.

This is the end of my decade in VR.I have mixed feelings.Quest 2 is almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning – mobile hardware, inside out tracking, optional PC streaming, 4k (ish) screen, cost effective. Despite all the complaints I have about our software, millions of people are still getting value out of it. We have a good product. It is successful, and successful products make the world a better place. It all could have happened a bit faster and been going better if different decisions had been made, but we built something pretty close to The Right Thing.

The issue is our efficiency.Some will ask why I care how the progress is happening, as long as it is happening?If I am trying to sway others, I would say that an org that has only known inefficiency is ill prepared for the inevitable competition and/or belt tightening, but really, it is the more personal pain of seeing a 5% GPU utilization number in production. I am offended by it.

[edit: I was being overly poetic here, as several people have missed the intention. As a systems optimization person, I care deeply about efficiency. When you work hard at optimization for most of your life, seeing something that is grossly inefficient hurts your soul. I was likening observing our organization's performance to seeing a tragically low number on a profiling tool.]

We have a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort. There is no way to sugar coat this; I think our organization is operating at half the effectiveness that would make me happy. Some may scoff and contend we are doing just fine, but others will laugh and say “Half? Ha! I’m at quarter efficiency!”It has been a struggle for me. I have a voice at the highest levels here, so it feels like I should be able to move things, but I’m evidently not persuasive enough. A good fraction of the things I complain about eventually turn my way after a year or two passes and evidence piles up, but I have never been able to kill stupid things before they cause damage, or set a direction and have a team actually stick to it. I think my influence at the margins has been positive, but it has never been a prime mover.

This was admittedly self-inflicted – I could have moved to Menlo Park after the Oculus acquisition and tried to wage battles with generations of leadership, but I was busy programming, and I assumed I would hate it, be bad at it, and probably lose anyway.Enough complaining. I wearied of the fight and have my own startup to run, but the fight is still winnable! VR can bring value to most of the people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do it than Meta. Maybe it actually is possible to get there by just plowing ahead with current practices, but there is plenty of room for improvement.

Make better decisions and fill your products with “Give a Damn”!

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 12 > John Carmack announces departure from Meta and VR development
Sam Medley, 2022-12-17 (Update: 2022-12-17)