Virtual Reality Pioneer Is Leaving Meta

Virtual Reality Pioneer Is Leaving Meta

John Carmack, a pioneer of virtual reality technology, is leaving Meta after more than eight years at the company, according to an internal post reviewed by The New York Times.

In the post, which was written by Mr. Carmack, 52, the technologist criticized his employer. He said Meta, which is in the midst of transitioning from a social networking company to one focused on the immersive world of the metaverse, was operating at “half the effectiveness” and has “a ridiculous amount of people and resources, but we constantly self-sabotage and squander effort.”

“It has been a struggle for me,” Mr. Carmack wrote in the post, which was published on an internal forum this week. “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.”

As the former chief technology officer of Oculus, the virtual reality company that Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014, Mr. Carmack was one of the most influential voices leading the development of V.R. headsets. He stayed with Facebook after Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, decided to shift the company last year to focus on the metaverse and renamed Facebook as Meta.

Yet even though Meta was moving swiftly into an area that Mr. Carmack specialized in, he was sometimes a dissenting voice about how the effort was going. He became known for internal posts that criticized the decision-making and direction set forth by Mr. Zuckerberg and Andrew Bosworth, Meta’s chief technology officer. Mr. Carmack had been working part-time for the company in recent years.

Mr. Carmack and Meta did not respond to requests for comment. Insider earlier reported on Mr. Carmack’s departure.

Meta’s earnings have been hit hard by its spending on the metaverse and its slowing growth in social networking and digital advertising. In July, the Silicon Valley company posted its first sales decline as a public company. Last month, Meta said it was laying off about 11,000 employees, or about 13 percent of its work force, in what amounted to the company’s most significant job cuts.

In a podcast interview in August, Mr. Carmack said Meta’s $10 billion loss at the time in the division housing its augmented reality and virtual reality initiatives made him “sick to my stomach.” He added that the company’s metaverse efforts have been hampered by bureaucracy and dogged by concerns about diversity and privacy.

In other posts seen by The Times from this year, Mr. Carmack criticized features on the company’s Quest virtual reality headsets. In his farewell post, he commended the Quest 2 headset as “almost exactly what I wanted to see from the beginning” in terms of its cost and mobile hardware, though he was still critical of its software.

“We built something pretty close to The Right Thing,” he said.

Mr. Carmack’s post, which said he was ending his decade in V.R., concluded by saying he had “wearied of the fight” and would focus on his own start-up. (He announced in August that his artificial intelligence firm, Keen Technologies, had raised $20 million.)

“V.R. can bring value to most of the people in the world, and no company is better positioned to do it than Meta,” he wrote.

Before Meta, Mr. Carmack pioneered various techniques in computer graphics that became crucial to games that he developed, including Quake. He joined Oculus in 2013 as chief technology officer and stepped down from that role in 2019, moving into a part-time role.

Mr. Carmack this week also testified in a court hearing over the Federal Trade Commission’s attempt to block Meta’s purchase of Within, the virtual reality start-up behind a fitness game called Supernatural. The agency has argued that the tech giant will snuff out competition in the nascent metaverse if it is allowed to complete the deal. The hearing is expected to continue next week.

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