Apple has finally made a commitment to VR, announcing on stage today at Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017 that not only will they offer an external GPU developer kit for MacBooks capable of meeting the graphical demands of VR, but that both the new 27-inch iMac and the iMac Pro will be VR-ready out of the box.
Senior VP of software engineering Craig Federighi announced today to the WWDC crowd that Metal 2, the company’s updated hardware-accelerated graphics API, will be launching with support for external graphics as well as a set of VR-specific features to the newly revealed High Sierra macOS.
Dubbed ‘Metal for VR’, the update will include developer features such as a VR-optimized display pipeline, viewport arrays, system trace stereo timelines, GPU queue priorities and frame debugger stereoscopic visualization. The company says Metal 2 will also support Unity, Unreal Engine and the Steam VR SDK, making Apple’s new operating system a true VR-native.
The new external GPU dev kit, available today, is coming with a VR-capable AMD Radeon RX 580, which is somewhere between an NVIDIA GTX 1060 and 1070 in function. While it may not be specifically marketed for VR consumers, instead targeted towards developers, the external GPU enclosure would technically allow you to use a high-quality VR headset like a HTC Vive or Oculus Rift with a MacBook using the Steam VR beta.
Apple VP of hardware engineering John Ternus later presented the new iMac lineup, concluding with the 27-inch iMac that’s finally packing a VR-ready GPU and making it the first out the door to have native VR support. Calling it a “great platform for VR content creation,” Ternus revealed that Lucas Film’s ILMx Lab has been using the 27-inch iMac and Unreal Engine to develop a new Star Wars themed real-time creation with the help of Epic’s Unreal VR Editor.
In the Star Wars-themed creation, Epic’s Lauren Ridge demonstrated by putting on a HTC Vive and building a basic scene by picking assets and resizing them, including an animated Darth Vader.
27-Inch iMac Specs
Intel 7th Gen Core processor (“Kaby Lake”)
Radeon Pro 570, 575 and 580 graphics options with up to 8GB VRAM
New Retina 5K display (up to 500 nits, or 43 percent brighter)
Up to 64GB memory
Fusion drive (up to 50 percent faster, up to 2TB capacity)
2 USB-C connectors with Thunderbolt
Starting at $1799
iMac Pro, Apple’s high-sec 27-incher with Retina 5K display, is going to be VR-ready too, coming with a Radeon Pro Vega GPU which delivers up to 11 Teraflops of compute power for real-time 3D rendering and high frame rate VR. The iMac Pro is scheduled to ship in December starting at $4,999 (US).