At Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference today, the company made a major shift in their embrace of virtual reality with several new VR announcements during the event’s opening keynote.

Though well loved, Apple’s computer lineup got somewhat left in the dust at the launch of the Rift and Vive, both of which had hardware requirements that exceeded what Apple had on offer. To that end, the company largely steered clear of talking about VR publicly.

Today marks a major shift in Apple’s public support for virtual reality. VR was a recurrent theme throughout the keynote today, highlighting their belief in the importance of the medium. Here’s an overview of everything they announced:

VR Ready Computers

Photo courtesy Apple

Apple announced its first VR Ready computers today. The new 27-inch iMac will be the only computer in the new iMac lineup to be VR Ready, thanks to the inclusion of an AMD Radeon Pro 580 GPU. The 27-inch system can also be configured with less powerful Radeon Pro 570 and 575 GPUs, though it isn’t clear yet if these cards will offer enough performance to be considered VR Ready.

Apple also announced the brand new iMac Pro, a new ultra-high end version of the Mac which will offer more powerful processors and AMD’s latest Vega graphics. Apple says they’ve developed a new cooling system that’s much more efficient that the rest of the iMac lineup, allowing the device to offer much more power while keeping sound low.

Apple says the new high-end iMac and iMac Pro are “great platform[s] for VR content creation.”

External VR Ready Graphics for Macbook

In addition to adding VR Ready systems to their desktop lineup, Apple will be offering an external graphics enclosure with an AMD Radeon RX 580 GPU which will connect to Macbooks via Thunderbolt. Initially released as a development kit, Apple says the external graphics enclosure will allow developers to “tune [their] apps for high performance external graphics.” Following that, the company “will be rolling out support to all of our customers in the months to come.”

SteamVR and HTC Vive on Mac OS

While Steam has been Mac compatible for some time now, Apple announced that Valve will be bringing SteamVR to Mac too, allowing the HTC Vive to run VR games on Mac systems. Although SteamVR also supports the Rift on PC, it relies on elements of Oculus’ PC SDK which means it’s unlikely that we’ll see Rift on Mac until Oculus supports it officially.

Vive Demo on Stage

To show the audience the power of the company’s new VR Ready 27-inch iMac—and a taste of what it’s like to be in VR—Apple showed a demo running on the HTC Vive that was created by Industrial Light and Magic. Using Epic’s Unreal Engine VR Editor, they showed how developers could build VR content inside of VR itself, using Star Wars assets.

The demo was shot against a green screen so that it could be composited together with the virtual world, offering a mixed reality view for the audience.

Metal for VR

Photo courtesy TIME

Apple’s newly updated Metal 2 graphics API is getting specially tuned for VR. Metal 2 can bring up to a 10x increase in draw call throughput over the original, the company says, and it will include a VR-optimized display pipeline.

Unity and Unreal VR SDK Support

Apple also says that both Unity and Unreal Engine—the leading VR content creation tools—will support their VR SDKs on Mac, allowing developers to create VR content on Apple’s machines.

VR Video Editing in Final Cut Pro X

Apple is updating their professional video editing application, Final Cut Pro X, to support 360 degree video editing. That means that video editing’s leading tools, Final Cut and Adobe’s Premiere Pro, now both offer 360 video editing capabilities, with Premiere having added support back in 2016.

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For the most part, all of these software updates are tied to Apple’s new version of Mac OS, ‘High Sierra’. The OS launched as a developer beta today. A public beta will follow in late June, followed by the final launch as a free upgrade on all systems that support the current ‘Sierra’ version.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Muddy

    a day late and a dollar short Apple.

    • brandon9271

      How many decades did it take them to get a mouse with more than one button? How about after market GPU support? Seriously, you’d have to be a masochist to use a Mac for gaming or VR.

  • EditorTom

    This is great news. Yes, they’re late to the game, but just in time to save a long time Mac user from having to buy a PC.

    • Bryan Ischo

      I admit Windows is an abomination, but I have a PC custom built to run my HTC Vive and once you get Steam installed, you never really have to touch it again, except to let it install its 50 Windows updates per month, or whatever ridiculous number of security updates it does. Aside from waiting a few minutes every other bootup or shutdown for these updates to install, it’s pretty much just an appliance that you can ignore.

      Just think of it as a piece of nameless hardware that runs your VR system, you don’t have to interact with it much, and it’s much cheaper to build a PC to do this than a Mac.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Windows is no more of an abomination as MacOS is, they are both crap and both excellent..

        • Lucidfeuer

          It is an absolute pile of shit abomination as an OS. But then you’ve got to work, therefor you need a PC.

          • Andrew Jakobs

            Oh please, it’s not by a long shot a ‘pile of shit abomination as an OS’. But I know you’re very VERY biased (in about everything).

          • Lucidfeuer

            I’m harsh and exaggerative, but not biased, Windows is in every way an horrendous pile of shit as a system when compared to OSX, there’s not even arguing about it if you ever used both. But as I said due to Apple’s financial milking oriented strategy, you can’t do serious work on OSX anymore, unlike you develop flat-design based apps, 8bit retro-games or vlogging.

      • Sam Illingworth

        Yep, that’s what I have. PC boots into Steam’s Big Picture mode, effectively acting like a console (plugged into the TV). Mac for everything else, except what the iPad can do, which is almost everything I want to do.

      • Graham J ⭐️

        Yep that’s my setup too. Win10 for VR only and macOS for everything else.

  • Matt Girard

    Great time to be alive! With apple onboard, VR market saturation will increase very quickly. I run my VR rigs off a MSICA vr ready gaming laptop. But I love Mac for all other things like music and video editing. Stoked this is happening and might change up my portable set up sooner than I thought.

  • Warren Scott Mackenzie

    apple is for cunts. designed by cunts, sold by cunts and admired by cunts.

    • Justos

      spoken like a true one.

    • daveinpublic

      I find most Windows fans have never spent much time on a Mac. I find most Mac fans have spent a lot of time on Windows.

      • hyperskyper

        I was required to have a MacBook Pro for business and knows the ins and outs of MacOS better than anyone I know. I use it almost all day everyday. I absolutely hate MacOS, it disgusts me. They haven’t done any significant updates in YEARS. Last year’s “revolutionary update”, Sierra, added Siri and that was it! They spent a whole year just porting their crappy virtual assistant to MacOS. Windows 10 is the best OS on every level. I would rather use XP or Vista than MacOS.

    • Bryan Ischo

      Welcome to my block list!

    • Graham J ⭐️

      Sorry you were too stupid to be able to use an iPad.

    • Simon Lytting

      I work in a professional post production company on feature films. I’ve been working on both platforms for the better part of my life and in the end I come out as a PC fan. It’s like this…we use Macs for the machines that require creative freelancers to work on which is in editing, but PCs for the high end heavy lifting machines like visual effects and color grading. (Linux is running our heaviest colorgrading suite.) Mac simply does not have the computing power we need on the high end machines with multiple GPUs. If we don’t consider the abomination that is the “trash bin” Mac, Apple have been sleeping in class when it comes to releasing new Mac Pros, that can handle modern 4K workflows.

      We are slowly upgrading our machine park in the editing department as well moving away from Apple entirely. We can build thrice the machine at half the price. So now all we have to do is educate our editors to not be afraid of the missing apple key, and in the end we all will be happy.

      I completely admit, Mac is very stable and you are not bothered by too many upgrades. I would definetly advise my sister to get a Mac for her home computing but on professional level Apple is falling behind.

      Sometimes producers come by, and ask us “can you put this teaser or trailer on my iPad” They don’t always understand that I need their Apple login to download some app or their laptop just to transfer a freakin videofile to their iPad. Apple is for people who don’t know anything about computers and don’t want to know. Anytime they want something done that Apple didn’t have planned, they find some poor PC user to help them get around the Apple wall. When it’s fixed, they then leave this poor, now grey haired, PC user and go out into the world and tell everyone how great and good looking Apple is. Sigh…

  • Epic news. Apple believing in VR means that another major company is betting on this technology that every day has more probability to succeed

    • daveinpublic

      For the first time, it’s looking like VR is here to stay this time!

  • superdonkey

    strange that this company with the deepest pockets of them all didn’t design their own hmd.

    • Mei Ling

      There are “rumours” that they’re working on an augmented reality device because if Microsoft is doing it then they have to do it.

  • Zeff Jucker

    Note the term ‘VR Ready’ – not too long ago, some TV makers were selling ‘3D Ready’ TVs which basically meant that if their customers wanted to watch a 3D movie with them, they could. ‘Ready’ seems to be a qualifier that companies who aren’t fully behind the technology add to make it look like the half hearted attempt it is not to miss the band wagon. I think Apple is much more behind AR than VR and Tim Cook has said as much in the recent past.