Back at WWDC 2017 Apple finally embraced VR, announcing that it had been working with Valve to bring SteamVR and the HTC Vive to MacOS, along with a number of other announcements about how the company would support VR as part of its ecosystem. With the anticipated iMac Pro due to launch on Thursday, the company is positioning its most powerful computer yet as an ideal machine for VR development.

Apple may not hold the majority of the PC market, but among certain sectors its hardware and software are nearly industry standards. For those industries which rely heavily on Apple hardware and software, VR has been minimally accessible at best, with none of the major PC VR headsets supporting MacOS and a distinct lack of ‘VR Ready’ hardware offered by Apple.

Report: Apple Acquired VR Headset Startup Vrvana for $30 Million

That changed earlier this year when Apple announced new iMac & external GPU offerings which could be finally be equipped with hardware meeting VR Ready specifications, including the iMac Pro, the first ‘Pro’ machine in several years, which can be equipped with the powerful Radeon Pro Vega 56 (with 8GB of HMB2 memory) or Vega 64 (with 16GB of HMB2).

Apple is positioning the new iMac Pro—available this Thursday starting at a cool $5,000—as an ideal machine for VR content creators (both 360 video and real-time). Of all the use-cases they could appeal to on the computer’s meticulously crafted landing page, VR gets a call-out with the HTC Vive making a cameo:

Image courtesy Apple

Virtual reality gets real.
With the new Vega GPU, iMac Pro lets you do more than just immerse yourself in VR worlds. It lets you create them from scratch.

In typical Apple fashion, it’s not verbose, but—knowing that the copy on the page was likely vetted by the company’s top executives—it tells us a lot about where Apple’s head is at. Indeed, Apple’s SVP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, quoted a review of the computer, from photographer Vincent Laforet, highlighting the system’s purported VR chops.

With VR Ready hardware finally becoming available to Apple devotees, both Unity and Unreal Engine—the leading VR content creation tools—intend to support their VR SDKs on Mac, allowing developers to create real-time VR content on Apple’s machines. Apple earlier this year also said that it planned to update Final Cut Pro X to support 360 degree video editing. That means that video editing’s leading tools, Final Cut Pro X and Adobe’s Premiere Pro, will both offer 360 video editing capabilities.

For now, Apple’s VR moves largely appeal to VR creators. In time, once the company’s ecosystem of developers and content creators begin working in the medium, one can expect that Apple will focus its marketing more toward consumers of VR content as the company begins offering more consumer-focused VR Ready hardware.

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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."
  • Richard Matey

    “it’s a trap” don’t buy an overpriced Apple desktop to do what a PC can do at 1/5 the price and way more support all round. Not talking from a fanboy perspective, but if your a VR developer this purchase will eat up your profit margins.

  • Check out my under $500, (not $5000) NVIDIA GTX1050ti 4GB overclocked i3 Skylake TonyMacx86 inspired VR Hackintosh. It isn’t pretty but it gets the job done. Not everyone wants or needs to spend that kind of money, especially if you already have a Mac collecting dust, but can still be updated to High Sierra. Frankly there is NO reason at all to buy a Mac for anything, especially if you are doing 3D animation, game design or VR (or AR). You only need a Mac if you are building iOS content, especially if you are building ARKit or Google Cardboard mobile VR apps since you they have to be compiled in Xcode (Mac only) if you are using Unreal or Unity 3D. Apple needs to get a clue, that VR developers already have beefy PC, and just need something light (like an updated Mac Mini with discrete graphics for under $1000)

  • Jean-Sebastien Perron

    Apple with the word 3d accelerated is incompatible.

  • Jack Liddon

    And so begins the Apple hate. Ha!

    • vr deluxe

      How about first gen VR hate? Because it all sucks

    • What’s hateful about being truthful?

      I don’t hate Apple, I just don’t see a point in buying any of their products because I can get better performance elsewhere, and not have to deal with their restrictive development model. Anyone that tries to hold me back professionally or personally doesn’t deserve my money and that’s my opinion… it’s not hateful… more benign than anything.

      So, what in the comments above did you consider hateful? What? Are you a die hard Apple fan? Does it upset you that other people don’t think the same way about Apple? Why do you care? Especially, why do you care how other developers choose to spend their money… money that isn’t yours and has no effect on you?

  • metanurb

    Or buy two vr pcs and employ two more staff members.

  • ale bro

    if the prices start at $5k, where do they end?

  • Umm… why would anyone use an Apple system for VR development when their 3D implementations are verified to run at 1/3rd the speed of their PC equivalent?

    I work with a serious Apple fan, and while I don’t give him hell about using them, I honestly don’t understand the attraction. For what he spends to buy one Mac, I can build dozen or more embedded Linux systems, cluster them, and run a work load that runs circles around that Mac. It amazes me how Apple fans think that somehow they’re not getting screwed.

  • Skippy76

    You have to be a real imbecile to spend $5000 for a mac PC..

  • chuan_l

    The 18 core / 128 GB version sounds nice —
    Though you’ll be paying a premium for that ! Landing around 10K for a single work station. Just built a Threadripper machine with 1080 Ti , M2 drives and water cooling for under that base unit price. The Zenith Pro also has Intel 60 GHz wireless video transmission on board.

  • Lucidfeuer

    I’ve used iMacs and Macbook for 15 years, but since I’m not an hysterically dumb person I’ve switched back to PC more than 3 years ago when I started doing serious work.

    I actually recently saw someone get fired after a 2 months testing period because he was using Macs for 3D pipeline thus of course was always off on performance, compatibility and was breaking the workflow…we’re doing the same in our agency if someone who is not in administrative, writing or sound tasks uses a Mac.

  • Intersting news for the VR ecosystem… but $5000 is a damn high price for a computer!

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