John Carmack: VR developers need to start judging themselves

Carmack suggests developers are coasting on novelty, should be working hard to lower bar to adoption
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Speaking at the close of Oculus Connect last week, CTO John Carmack spoke of the need for developers to push past the "novelty" factor that he feels has dominated the software content on VR platforms.

"We are coasting on novelty, and the initial wonder of being something people have never seen before," said Carmack, ""But we need to start judging ourselves. Not on a curve, but in an absolute sense. Can you do something in VR that has the same value, or more value, than what these other [non-VR] things have done?"

Carmack suggested in his impassioned closing remarks that VR developers will need to start being harder on themselves, mentioning that VR software doesn't offer the same value to consumers as a non-VR experience, and that for the platform to succeed, this has to change.

He speaks at the same event at which Oculus has announced its third major VR-enabled headset, while Sony's PlayStation VR headset is just days from launch and Carmack has predicted that VR on PC will become a "laboratory" where ideas are formed and can be pushed out to lower-end and non-VR systems.

Carmack has also mentioned a need to lower loading times. At the moment, Carmack claims that development teams are fighting hard to reduce load times to 29 seconds or less, but claims that this is too long for virtual reality.

"That's acceptable if you're going to sit down and play for an hour" said Carmack "but initial startup time really is poisonous. An analogy I like to say is, imagine if your phone took 30 seconds to unlock every time you wanted to use it. You would use it a lot less."

He suggested an upper limit to load times of 20 seconds.

While this sort of nitpicking might seem irrelevant, it shows that for virtual reality, developers are now past the "making it work" phase and are now working towards improving things for the users.

"There might be a hundred million PCs that can do this," said Carmack "but I believe in the mission that Facebook had when it bought into Oculus, of having a billion people in VR," he said. "So it's not going to be a higher and higher bar for performance; it's going to be a lower and lower bar for adoption."

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