John Carmack, the guy who programmed Doom and Quake, is applying his considerable talent towards improving VR headsets. Here, he gives a (highly recommended!) twenty-minute talk on why VR headsets don’t work and why his approach comes closer to working, which I found fascinating for a couple of reasons.
1) John emanates a tendency I’ve noticed in the “good” geek world: accepting and acknowledging problems. Which is to say that if you talk to a certain style of geek about his favorite X, that X does everything perfectly – and anything it doesn’t do is something you’re stupid for wanting. Which is why, despite our abundance of tech, so many problems remain – you have this sort of geek tunnel-vision where they fall in love with a technology, and then they forget that this technology has limits, and rather than working to expand those limits, they start circling the wagons and explaining defensively that this isn’t doable, and besides that’s not what’s important.
Note how John does not do this. If anything, this presentation is full of encoded apologies – it doesn’t do this, but we want it to. It should do this, but the technology’s not there yet. Some people experienced blurriness, and we’re not sure why yet, but we’ll get it. John’s a smart guy, and while he’s clearly loving the tech, he’s much more concerned with making it do what he wants it to ultimately do, as opposed to working within the limitations it imposes.
This is what I consider to be a “good” geek in that competent nerds may love a tech, but they never forget that the tech exists to accomplish a goal. And they never get so wrapped up in the joys of doing Stuff that they forget that Stuff, cool as it is, still isn’t really all that impressive yet. John’s clearly proud of what he’s done, but he has a vision – a 360-degree vision – and he is not removing his eyes from that end goal.
2) The article itself talks about how impenetrable John’s talks are, because he’s a smart guy who uses a lot of big words – which led me to believe that I’d spend twenty minutes hearing some UNIX guy blathering on about device driver conflicts. But aside from one or two words I didn’t know, I found the talk itself surprisingly easy to follow. Carmack’s a good teacher, and this was highly educational about why current VR is so dissatisfying. So am I that smart, or is the PC Gamer guy that dumb, or is PC Gamer purposely making it sound like Carmack is obtuse so their readers will feel brilliant when they don’t have problems following along?
3) John Carmack is about half a second away from bursting into a Gilbert Gottfried impression. At all times.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.