Palmer Luckey Gave His Take On Quest Pro And Vision Pro

Palmer Luckey gave his take on Meta Quest Pro and Apple Vision Pro and explained what he would do differently if still at Oculus.

If you’re unaware, Luckey founded Oculus VR in 2012 to launch the Kickstarter campaign that would eventually lead to the consumer Oculus Rift in 2016, after two publicly sold development kits. Luckey was the public face of Oculus until 2017 when he was fired by Facebook, the company he sold Oculus to for over $2 billion in 2014. Luckey went on to co-found defense company Anduril Industries, recently valued at $8.5 billion.

Luckey was recently interviewed by Peter Diamandis on a range of topics including Anduril, Diamandis’ new XPRIZE contest to end destructive wildfires, and virtual reality.

Luckey On Apple Vision Pro

Discussing VR, Diamandis first asked Luckey for his views on Apple Vision Pro. Luckey explained how he believes Apple is taking the right approach for its target market to “something that everybody wants” before “something everyone can afford”:

Apple is going after the exact right segment of the market that Apple should be going after. If Apple had tried to go after the low end of the market, that would’ve been a mistake. They are taking the exact approach that I had always wanted Apple to take, and really the approach that Oculus had been taking in the early years.

When Apple launched the Vision Pro, I retweeted a Tweet of my own from 2015 where I said that “before VR can become something that everyone can afford, it must become something that everybody wants”. And I think that’s the approach Apple is taking.

Obviously they’re gonna do a cheaper version in the future. It boils my mind when you have all of these pundits coming out and saying “This is a blunder. It’ll never go anywhere. Who the heck is gonna spend $3500?”

There’s a lot of people who are gonna spend it. But more importantly, there’s a hundred times more people who are gonna spend a quarter of that when it gets to that.

The price just doesn’t matter for the group of early adopters that they’re targeting. But what they’re gonna do is inspire lust in a much larger group of people who, as I dreamed all those years ago, see VR as something they desperately want before it becomes something they can afford.

Diamandis asked Luckey if he would have done things differently if he were still at Oculus. He explained how he believes Meta abandoned the high end too soon and is pushing for VR to go mainstream too early, not giving the technology enough time to progress through the usual adoption cycle:

I would’ve shipped a different set of hardware focused on a different set of people, and I probably would’ve staged it a little bit differently.

There’s been this consistent push at Facebook to make VR something that everybody is interested in using, but I think it’s come somewhat prematurely. I wrote a blog post years ago called Free Isn’t Cheap Enough and in it I lay out an argument against the idea that the thing holding VR back is cost.

This idea that if you make a VR headset cheap enough then everybody will want it might be true in the limit. You have to make the technology accessible and affordable if you eventually wanna have a billion people using it. But to do that, you have to first hit a certain level of quality.

There’s a certain level of hardware, quality, comfort, ergonomics, resolution, and especially critically content library in breadth and depth that you have to have before the average person will even care about VR.

The argument of Free Isn’t Cheap Enough was that if you took current VR headset technology as of a few years ago and you lowered the price to $0, meaning you literally give them away, you gave it to everybody in the world, I argued that the majority of people would cease using it within a few weeks. The only people left would be the hardcore techno heads, the super geeks, the hardcore gamers. A group of people I fall into myself. But I pointed out that cutting the cost doesn’t get you to the mainstream if you’re not at that particular level of quality.

I think one of the mistakes was trying to go too mainstream too quickly to the detriment of the growth trajectory. And you might say, oh, well they’re just trying to get it to take off, but I think that these things have to kind of come in stages. And so I think leaving the high end and the hardcore behind too early was a mistake. And I think things like Facebook Horizons, Meta Horizons now, is not the thing that is going to convince the masses to use VR.

You could say “well, you gotta start building it now”. To which I would say: no, you don’t. You need to build the things that the people who will use it at its current state will use. You need to maximize your sales at every step of the way.

There was a thing that I said right before I left. I pointed out in the marketing and targeting discussions, there was too much Starbucks and not enough Mountain Dew.

Luckey On Quest Pro

Luckey particularly criticized the fact that Meta didn’t really do much with Quest Pro’s eye tracking, and lamented the fact it failed to capitalize on shipping the first consumer standalone with eye tracking integrated.

Things like Quest Pro were actually directionally a good step. But I think it was too late and not implemented particularly well.

“Did you even know that Quest Pro had eye tracking?” Luckey asked Diamandis. “I did not”, he responded.

That’s the crazy thing. When I was at Oculus we did something called feature prototypes. We’d show a hardware prototype that incorporated one new feature, and we would show to developers how you could use it.

We would make software demonstrations of how you would do this. So whether it’s positional tracking or controllers or low persistence, we would show how this particular feature could be used and get devs thinking about it, get them excited about it. So they were developing for it ahead of time, and then coming up with concepts they could use once the hardware was out. And we would never release a new feature in our hardware without showing it to devs way ahead of time and showing the public what could be done with it.

Quest Pro came out like, “Hey, we have eye tracking, we have face tracking. The only app that supports it is, is Horizons, and we have no other demo applications. We have nothing that shows you the magic. We have no UI examples that show you how to use this. There’s no games that support it. There’s no way you can actually even play with it except in this one app that none of you even care about”. And that was a big mistake.

I think Meta could have basically owned that entire eye tracking / natural interaction moment because the idea of looking at things and touching your fingers to interact with them, that isn’t a new Apple idea, but they’re the ones that brought it out and said that we’re putting a stake in the ground.

If I were still around, I probably wouldn’t have shipped a headset without any demonstrations of the killer feature of that headset.

Anyways, look, I can complain all day. I’m sorry to the people at Meta for giving you guys a hard time. I know you guys have a lot of issues I understand some of the inner inter-political dynamics of how these things ended up this way and why they ended up this way. I’m not ignorant of the challenges. But I can’t help but look and think that I would’ve done things – I would’ve made different mistakes, I’ll put it that way.

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