At Oculus Connect 3, Oculus VR’s chief technology officer, John Carmack, talked openly about both the present status and future of VR. Carmack stated that VR developers are “currently coasting on novelty”, and spoke of how they need to begin “judging themselves” on what products they are putting out. Some examples he provided of improvements that could be made to VR applications include improved user interfaces, more prevalent voice control features, and faster loading times. Carmack not only discussed desktop and console VR hardware, but also mobile VR systems such as the Gear VR. He stated that mobile systems will be the critical factor in providing a “lower and lower bar for adoption” of the technology.
Regarding slow load times with many desktop VR devices, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Carmack stated that developers are having a difficult time trying to cut those times down. Most desktop headsets take a minimum of 30 seconds to load software displays on the device. “That’s acceptable if you’re going to sit down and play for an hour….but [in VR] 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’d use it a lot less.” As far as mobile development is concerned, he stressed the importance of developers who focus not only on desktop hardware, but also mobile. He believes desktop VR software development will become a “laboratory” for creativity and concept development, with these ideas finally being implemented on mobile for a wider audience.
Carmack’s opinions should be considered very important, given the vast influence he has had on the gaming industry since the early 1990s. He brings up a fairly balanced view of both the current shortcomings and future potential of VR. Many current applications of VR do feel gimmicky and novel, but there does exist software that uses the hardware in useful ways, such as Google’s Tilt Brush. Desktop and console hardware can support more technically advanced applications, but Carmack makes a great case for mobile devices being crucial for mainstream adoption of the technology. Despite the mixed reception to modern virtual reality tech, Carmack still seems hopeful that it will soon pull through it’s novelty phase and become something truly revolutionary.