The Wolfe is a new project about to hit Kickstarter that claims to offer a hardware solution to Macbook owners wanting to run virtual reality applications, an external Thunderbolt connected GPU.
Those with Apple computers may well feel a little left out in the cold when it comes to running the latest virtual reality hardware. In fact, Oculus founder Palmer Lucker famously quipped last year that even Apple’s desktop workstations lacked the grunt required to push VR experiences:
“It just boils down to the fact that Apple doesn’t prioritize high-end GPUs. You can buy a $6,000 Mac Pro with the top-of-the-line AMD FirePro D700 and it still doesn’t match our recommended spec. If they prioritize higher-end GPUs like they used to for a while back in the day… we’d love to support Mac. But right now there’s just not a single machine out there [from Apple] that supports it. So even if we can support on the software side, there’s just no audience of [Mac users] that can run the vast majority of [VR] software out there.”
Of course, Oculus had once supported the Rift on both Mac OSX and Linux with early builds of their SDK, but back in early 2015 that they indefinitely “paused” support for those platforms.
So are Apple computer users SOL when it comes to running VR? Until now the answer was a resounding ‘yes’, but a new crowdfunded project wants to try to help out. The Wolfe Pro is a new external, Thunderbolt connected GPU which claims to increase the average Macbook Pro’s GPU processing capability by up to 10x.
Its comes as a neat, if sizable, enclosure that contains an NVIDIA GTX 970 GPU, the baseline for both the Vive and Rift in terms of rendering grunt. Connected to your Macbook with a single Thunderbolt connector, the team plan to offer the product to early bird kickstarter backers for $399 when the campaign officially launched on August 23rd. Right now, the team claim The Wolfe is compatible with the following Apple computers:
- MacBook Air 11-inch, Mid 2011–2015
- MacBook Air 13-inch, Mid 2011–2015
- MacBook Pro Retina, 13-inch, Late 2012–2015
- MacBook Pro Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2012–2015
- MacBook Pro 13-inch, Early 2011–2015
- MacBook Pro 15-inch, Early 2011–2015
- Mac mini, Mid 2011–2015
- iMac, Mid 2011–2015
- Mac Pro, Late 2013-2015
Of course, precisely what levels of performance you’ll get from your device will depend on which version of Thunderbolt you’re running.
And do remember, this product only resolves the hardware issue by adding connected GPU grunt via Thunderbolt, there is still no support for the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive (for the most part) on OSX, which means you’ll need to dual-boot with a Windows operating system via Boot-camp in order to enjoy on your mac. Not that this is a major issue, just a point of clarity.
For those expecting completely portable too, bear in mind you’ll need a power socket for the Wolfe enclosure. Finally, check out how many USB 3 sockets are featured on your Macbook. The Oculus Rift requires a minimum of 2 USB 3 sockets (one for the headset, one for the tracking sensor) and those sockets will ideally need to be on Oculus’ HCL. And that’s before any additional sensor is required for the forthcoming Touch controllers, which will need an additional USB 3 port and not to forget the Xbox ONE Wireless controller which requires a USB 2.0 port for the dongle.
The Wolfe’s Kickstarter campaign begins on August 23rd (teaser above), and it does look like a potentially good option for those locked into Apple hardware—just please do your research before jumping headlong into the early bird support.