Virtual reality gaming startup Oculus Rift has appointed digital graphics pioneer and former space cowboy John Carmack as its chief technology officer.
The announced was made on Wednesday and will see Carmack work from a new Oculus Rift office in Dallas, Texas. Carmack's appointment follows Oculus Rift tragically losing co-founder Andrew Reisse earlier this year, who killed after being hit by a car that was fleeing police.
"I believe that VR will have a huge impact in the coming years, but everyone working today is a pioneer," Carmack said in a canned statement.
"It’s certainly not there yet. There is a lot more work to do, and there are problems we don’t even know about that will need to be solved, but I am eager to work on them. It’s going to be awesome!”
Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that generated massive enthusiasm when it raised $2.4m on KickStarter in September, last year. It uses a stereoscopic headset that combines a large field-of-view with low-latency head tracking.
Carmack has been a supporter since early on in the developent cycle, and said at E3 2012 that Oculus Rift "is the best VR demo the world has ever seen". He later made the "BFG" re-release of Doom 3 made compatible with the technology.
"John has been a part of this project and a true believer in the future of virtual reality since the beginning. He was the very first developer to actually integrate the Rift into a game, back when the hardware was just a hand-held prototype without an SDK," the Oculus team wrote in the post announcing the appointment.
The headset's drawbacks – according to multiple testers – are that many games need to have their control scheme redesigned around the technology, as using a mouse and keyboard or even a console controller can be unwieldy, and crufting up the in-game interface with HUD details can break the sense of immersion. Some people report motion sickness as well.
Carmack is a pioneer of gaming graphics, having transformed the field of gaming on multiple occasions through work on games such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake and pioneering technologies like OpenGL and LAN play.
In recent years, Carmack has struggled to have another hit, with recent ID effort Rage subduing critics and not leaving much of a mark, though Carmack's hands were clearly present in the game's advanced id Tech 5 engine which included "Virtual Textures" – single textures that could measure a whopping 128000 by 128000 pixels.
He has also had bad luck with his rocketry startup Armadillo Aerospace, which has been put into "hibernation mode" after Carmack ran out of his own cash.
Missteps aside, Carmack is clearly a fine fit for Oculus Rift, especially when you consider the speeches he makes every year at QuakeCon in which his enthusiasm and knowledge of the graphics fields shines through, despite sounding to non-GPU buffs like vogon poetry. ®