Facebook’s technical guide John Carmack spoke unscripted for more than an hour on September 16th.
Carmack’s talk followed a day of presentations and a news-packed keynote formally announcing the $299 Oculus Quest 2 powered by Facebook. The talk came at the end of the day and requires your full attention to process in real-time, so it’s totally understandable if you haven’t had time yet to watch it.
The densely packed talk covers the internal debate over the prospect of a wireless PC VR “Air Link” for Oculus Quest as well as the overall execution of Facebook’s social VR strategy. I’ve listened through the talk a couple times now and pulled out the following 11 quotations to highlight the most interesting things Carmack said.
Facebook Defying Distance
“This could be kind of insensitive but the global lockdown and pandemic should have been sort of the global coming of age for virtual reality where this was the opportunity to defy distance, defy reality, and all of that, but we’re only sort of accidentally benefitting from this, where not only were we sold out most of the time — we couldn’t just produce units that people wanted to buy, and that is not an easy thing to just rapidly change….but worse, all of our social experiences were basically killed or deprecated…so we made this huge bet on Horizon.” — 00:03:03
Location-Based VR Killed By COVID-19
“Unfortunately location-based VR has probably taken a terminal hit from this. It’s going to be a long time before people probably feel comfortable going someplace and putting on a shared public headset and that’s, you know, too bad.” — 00:05:12
Exercise In VR Is A Winning Application
“Exercise as a primary application of VR is really winning…People are ok with kind of making a sweaty mess in their own personal headset.” — 00:06:00
Quest 2 “Very Close To A Pure Win”
“The original Quest turned out to be more right than we really expected…Quest 2 is better, faster, cheaper, and we’re making a ton more of them…this is very close to a pure win…The actual resolution is 3664×1920 but it’s a full RGB stripe…that means it is a little over twice the number of subpixels [as compared to Quest].” — 00:14:06
“You Could Start Doing Real Work” With VR Now
“You can have multiple 1080 screens…this is getting to the point where you could start doing some real work with it, it might have some advantages over laptops in some situations.” — 00:16:33
Oculus Quest’s Wireless “Air Link”
“We still haven’t announced a full wireless connection system for Link and we have these interminable arguments internally about this — about quality bars — and I…can say right this very minute someone is using a wireless VR streaming system and getting value from it…we should have some kind of an Air Link.” — 00:31:29
Improved Headset Cameras After Quest 2
“Whatever the next headset is we’ve got to get higher resolution on the tracking cameras.” — 00:59:12
Ultra Lightweight Headsets
“We did look at this for the latter days of Gear VR, doing this kind of two part plug-in instead of drop-in, and there may still be some useful things to go there…There are still some things for which Go is the best headset.” — 01:00:45
VR Phone Calls
“Eventually putting on the headset should be as seamless as answering a phone call because eventually you might sort of be answering phone calls in VR if we get to where we want to be with communication…you want to be able to be paged, put on the headset and just immediately be there. …” — 01:02:04
“Having things converged now on our VR platforms is an enormous relief. It’s really hard to overstate how much drama internally this has been over the years, where my vision for VR was always as this universal device — we should be able to play games, we should be able to browse the web, we should be able to do productivity things, we should be able to connect to a PC, to cloud services…its virtual, we can do anything, it should be universal. But most of the other founders were really about ‘we want this high-end awesome gaming system’ and this caused enormous tension through the years. And its kind of ironic how we wound up with this system where we have this lower-powered gaming focused device which wasn’t really what anybody was aiming for at the beginning…” — 1:02:31
“Maybe you have a controller-free SKU but the controllers are more expensive but they never lose tracking.” — 1:08:47