Less than two days after the official unveiling of Meta’s Quest 3, John Carmack, renowned programmer and former Oculus CTO, expressed skepticism about the role of mixed reality (MR) applications in boosting headset sales. Carmack’s departure from Meta late last year marked the end of his “decade in VR.” Still, his insights hold weight in the world of extended reality (XR).
Carmack’s Doubts and the Quest 3
Carmack didn’t explicitly mention Quest 3 by name, but it’s evident that his skepticism revolves around Meta’s first consumer MR headset. He conveyed his doubts on Twitter, particularly regarding MR apps’ ability to sell headsets.
He noted, “I remain unconvinced that mixed reality applications are any kind of an engine for increasing headset sales.”
VR’s Power vs. MR’s Promise
Carmack acknowledged the value of high-quality pass-through technology but questioned the potential of MR apps designed to blend virtual and real-world environments. He believes VR’s true power lies in replacing your surroundings with something better, rather than adding a virtual screen to the real world.
Carmack commented, “The power of VR is to replace your environment with something much better, not to hang a virtual screen in your real environment.”
He also highlighted the contrast between the carefully curated environments seen in MR demonstrations and the diverse and less idealistic real-world settings of users. While he acknowledges the value of MR efforts, he suggests that there are more accessible opportunities to explore first.
In a follow-up tweet, Carmack clarified that he isn’t criticizing the future of augmented reality (AR) but rather the current state of MR-capable VR headsets.
He stated, “I am specifically talking about MR in today’s VR headsets. The magical, all-day wear, full field of view AR headsets of people’s dreams would be great, but they don’t exist, even in labs with billions of dollars.”
Meta’s MR Game Offerings
Meta’s recent announcement regarding MR games for Quest 3 was relatively modest, emphasizing the release of over 50 new VR games with “MR features.” This focus reflects Meta’s continued commitment to expanding its headset offerings, particularly in the face of market competition.
Increasing headset sales is a paramount concern for Meta, especially as they aim to outperform the Quest 2. At Connect 2023, Meta revealed that it had surpassed $2 billion in Quest game and app revenue, a remarkable achievement. However, this also highlights a notable deceleration in content sales over the past year.
The Uphill Battle for Quest 3
The slowing content sales place Quest 3 in a challenging position to maintain an upward trajectory. Meta’s substantial quarterly investments in its Reality Labs XR division, which exceed $4 billion, demonstrate the company’s commitment to advancing XR technologies. Still, the success of Quest 3 hinges on the ability to resonate with consumers.
John Carmack’s doubts regarding MR applications’ impact on headset sales raise important questions in the XR industry. His extensive experience and contributions to the development of virtual and mixed reality technologies make his opinions worth considering.
The Future of MR and VR
As XR technologies continue to evolve, it’s clear that MR and VR have distinct strengths and applications. While MR has the potential to offer unique experiences by blending the virtual and real worlds, VR remains a powerful tool for complete immersion into virtual environments. The challenge lies in effectively harnessing the strengths of both technologies to cater to diverse user preferences.
John Carmack’s skepticism about the role of mixed reality in selling headsets, particularly Meta’s Quest 3, invites a broader conversation about the future of extended reality. It’s a reminder that while mixed reality holds promise, the true potential of VR lies in transporting users to entirely new and immersive environments. As the XR landscape continues to evolve, it will be fascinating to see how Meta and other companies navigate the balance between virtual and mixed reality experiences to capture the hearts and minds of consumers.