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Oculus VR CTO John Carmack responds to Facebook controversies

Deal was news to him
Mon Mar 31 2014, 15:07

GAMES INDUSTRY LEGEND and Oculus VR CTO John Carmack was not part of Facebook's negotiations with his employer and had nothing to do with the deal.

Carmack revealed this when he waded into the debate about the Facebook deal in a comment on a critical blog post.

That post by Peter Berkman of a band called Anamanaguchi suggested that the deal will give Facebook too much information and that puts Oculus VR into a dangerous position. However Carmack said that he sees the deal as a good thing and he views Facebook as a worthy partner with shared aims.

"Honestly, I wasn't expecting Facebook (or this soon). I have zero personal background with them, and I could think of other companies that would have more obvious synergies. However, I do have reasons to believe that they get the Big Picture as I see it, and will be a powerful force towards making it happen. You don't make a commitment like they just did on a whim," he said.

"I wasn't personally involved in any of the negotiations - I spent an afternoon talking technology with Mark Zuckerberg, and the next week I find out that he bought Oculus."

Berkman expressed a pessimistic view of the acquisition and saw it turning virtual reality into another data mining network and Facebook, as the host, into an information monopoly.

"Facebook will know where you're looking, what you're doing, and how long you do it," he wrote. "Instead of Oculus being their own specialised operation that could create it's own goals and emergent desires, we now have a massive cultural force whose energy is being funneled (along with many others) to a singular entity who's goals and desires have been long-since determined."

He said that companies exist just to be acquired, and accused Oculus VR of being one of these companies. Carmack disputed this, but added that unlike some firms Oculus VR would not want to pursue its goals online.

"I share some of your misgivings about companies 'existing and operating only to be acquired'. I am a true believer in market economies, and the magic of trade being a positive sum game is most obvious with repeated transactions at a consumer level," he said.

"There is a case to be made for being like Valve, and trying to build a new VR ecosystem like Steam from the ground up. This is probably what most of the passionate fans wanted to see. The difference is that, for years, the industry thought Valve was nuts, and they had the field to themselves. Valve deserves all their success for having the vision and perseverance to see it through to the current state. [Oculus] VR won't be like that. The experience is too obviously powerful, and it makes converts on contact."

However, he doesn't agree with Berkman's views on the privacy implications of the £1.2bn deal, and said that there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of data.

"I'm not a 'privacy is gone, get over it' sort of person, and I fully support people that want remain unobserved, but that means disengaging from many opportunities. The idea that companies are supposed to interact with you and not pay attention has never seemed sane to me," he said.

"Being data driven is a GOOD thing for most companies to be. Everyone cheers the novel creative insight and bold leadership that leads to some successes, and tut tuts about companies ending up poorly by blindly following data, but cold analysis of the data is incredibly important, and I tend to think the world will be improved with more and better data analysis."

Not everyone is in favour of the deal, and many are concerned about Facebook's motives. µ


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