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.

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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.

image courtesy TIME

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.

image courtesy TIME
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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
image courtesy TIME

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).

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  • Marcus Scottus

    A bargain…right?

    • NooYawker

      There are no bargains with Macs, you want a bargain build your own. A high end prebuilt PC is pretty expensive as well. Paid 2k for mine and that’s without a monitor. I was too lazy to build my own :(

      • Darshan

        You could still buy high end pre built made by ASUS in ROG series
        When some PC is VR ready, Super performance for NON VR comes as Bonus

        You also need not to literally build your own, one can always take service of building from NEW EGG, just purchase parts from them, ask them to build it for you at some price. At least you will know what are you investing in to ….

        • Strawb77

          nah, rog= rip off gamers- those three letters just mean they`ve doubled whatever price it should actually be

          • Darshan

            Hmm but they stood back by product then, great support when ever needed, full RMA support for whole PC. Also note NooYawker wanted PreBuilt and has kitty to pay 2K for mac, RoG is not only ripoff yes partially but they indeed put hardware to justify …. so less ripoff than apple.

          • Strawb77

            come off it- you pay loads just for the name and fancy styling.
            i`d like to see how much of a £2k system you`ll get with a pre-built rog, lol.
            somewhere like ie: pcspecialist or dino pc will do a *lot* more for your money and still give rma and tech support. won`t look so purty with all the crazy case design and led lights and shit is all.

            less of a rip off?- it`s either a rip off or it ain`t, man.

    • Torben Bojer Christensen

      The bargain is all Apples, for the buyer it is always a losing bargain – for him and his wallet.

      One could easily save some money by getting a higher specked PC with a high-end I7 CPU, even a Geforce GTX 1080Ti and even be throwing in a 43 inch 4K monitor just for leisure, yes and then even a Vive on the side – and still not be as much as just half way to the Apple pro price.

      Their prices are just insane – impudent even!

      • johngrimoldy

        The disdain for Windows PCs has got to be off the charts for someone to choose Apple as a path to VR with the current popular equipment. At that price-point, I simply don’t see Apple gaining respectable ground in VR with that.

        • Darshan

          True!

        • Lucidfeuer

          I have a HUGE disdain for Windows PCs, and I still think they are unbearable. But in real life, I have to work and so of course, I have a PC and there’s no way to do serious work on Mac beside light forecasting, writing and management.

          • Darshan

            Windows PCs have HUGE install base, millions of programs to support anything you need to get your job done. If you are serious on business or Evid Pc gamer Windows is way to go

      • Darshan

        Apple is and always been horrendously over priced as far as mac books and mac are concerned. True some features like less bugs in OS and less malware or virus attack but that was also outcome of less install base. MACs user base has always been artist and top executives who like to showoff a lot.

        Agree for $1800 one could easily buy I7+32G ram+Gtx 1080ti and still have few bucks left. at $1300 top level I5+16G ram+ Gtx 1070 still defeat I Mac Retina 4K flat on ground.

        Anyone who is gamer and wish to buy VR ready system would never buy MAC. Why on earth game developer will buy it is question to me then?

        May be a very very small population of top executives/artist who also want to VR game would buy this thing…eh Mac VR

        • Eloise McInerney

          Hmm, I guess I fall into the ‘artist category’, although I’m not a visual artist. The thing is, even though I try to convince myself that I’d get more value for money with a PC, they’re just really ugly. Windows is ugly to look at and use and all the hardware is ugly. I would buy a PC for gaming only, and probably will do when I can afford it. But for daily use, I can’t really bear to work with something that’s not a Mac.

          And I must add that now that they are releasing a VR ready Mac, I may not go ahead with that PC purchase after all. I guess I’m just too brainwashed :-D

          • CompTechRx

            At least you are aware of the brainwashing, though how you are still able to go with Maa-aa-aaa-ck is beyond me. Sheeople being sheeople…

          • Darshan

            Being in ‘artist’ category is reason why you look in to beauty even at subtle level over functionality and raw power that made point clear.

            Put hands on Windows 10 it has lot evolved. There is never ending Mac Over Windows reasons so does otherwise.

            Choose what you love simple. Glad to know you are in gaming too.. at least deep desire wise.

          • Lucidfeuer

            OS X is clearly superior in terms of conception, I’ve stuck with Apple as long as there was a reason to and this reason was actually alive, but lucky for you, your work doesn’t require a computer. That’s why you don’t need a PC, but unfortunately if you didn’t anything from programming, data, 3D, simulations, finance, CRM, Video, analytics etc…you would need a PC.

        • Torben Bojer Christensen

          I believe it you are onto something, with the showing off. As a product it is like the B&O of computers, intended to be more art deco and a signal of wealth and lifestyle, much more than tech for conscious power users.

          • rob

            its probably a good thing for VR to have the wealthy Apple owners using it and invested in it, because they have investments to make and people to influence….VR can benefit from this crowd, in addition to gamers, developers, early adopters and tech addicted ;)

          • Torben Bojer Christensen

            Agreed.

      • Graham J ⭐️

        It’s funny how Apple articles always bring out the butthurt poor.

  • NooYawker

    Radeon Pro 570, 575 and 580 graphics.
    It’s been a long time since I used a Radeon.. are these any good?

    • Buddydudeguy

      Good is relative. No not really when it comes to VR. Very entry level.

      • Cristianfx

        1060 is not an entry level for vr, i need to set resampling at 1.8 to see any lag with it. that 580 is not between the 1060 and 1070? i guess they are not talking about the 3gb version… maybe AMD is just bad for VR? i used to have an old 7950 and was ok, that i could call an entry-preview vr :P

        • Buddydudeguy

          Uh…yes it is. You’re not feeling lag cuz you’re using ASW. A 1060 is NOT good for 1.8 SS 90fps. a 1060 or a 580 isn’t “low” end but it’s definitely not high end and you’re not using super sampling without hitting ASW most of the time if not all of the time.

          • rob

            my overclocked i7 / G1-GTX1070 still lacked enough headroom for high levels of playable super sampling in SteamVR on Vive, push it too high horrible reprojection and artifacts

            I would not buy anything less than GTX1080 and probably go for the 1080Ti

          • Darshan

            True Rx580 might just cut the surface.

          • Cristianfx

            Right. not high end i never said that. The true here is “a lot of money” for just a VR Ready…

    • Daemon Hunt

      lol are you being facetious? Is a Mazda 2 any good?

      • NooYawker

        Wow that bad? I honestly don’t know. I only keep up with nvidia.

  • Buddydudeguy

    AMD’s cards are very entry level as far as VR. Like, enjoy your ASW and forget increasing pixel density ( super sampling)without ASW on all the time and holy crap are these Apple systems a waste of money.

  • Daemon Hunt

    lol Metal 2. Let’s see how this all goes this time around. Shame, they must still have an exclusive agreement with AMD to continue to use their cards or we would have seen them go back to nVidia. I’m sorry but low/mid-range AMD cards are not cutting edge in my mind, but oh well something is better than nothing I suppose.

    • Graham J ⭐️

      Vega isn’t even out yet.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I wonder if the Oculus will be usable as it will only work with SteamVR, but as far as I know, SteamVR relies on the OculusSDK, which isn’t available on Mac (yet).
    But why oh why does Apple still want to push their own API, just go with Vulcan..

  • So, while everyone is working to reduce costs of VR-ready ready PCs, Apple is going to increase them? :D

    • Strawb77

      yup.

  • Paul Repaux

    Couldn’t care less about Apple’s hardware. Them putting their money into VR is an excellent thing for all of us though. Content, hype, money, technology. I think it might add a bit of spice in the business.

  • Raphael

    So the top iMac has a 580… which is really a 480. It’s amazing that HTC have positioned themselves on Apple store and thus elevating VR status significantly. Of course Apple’s vision of VR computing is more akin to your grandpa trying to be cool on the dance floor.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJj6d5QSYaE

    ^^^ Finnish guy teaches Disco dancing wearing his cricket clothes.

  • Strawb77

    iDiots.
    god must love them as he makes so many

  • Caven

    Bloody hell! I can get a laptop with a desktop-grade Intel i7-7700 CPU and dual Nvidia GTX 780 GPUs in it for less than that. It’s amazing they can get away with charging prices that make a high-end gaming laptop look like a bargain.