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Virtual realty has so far required a Windows-based PC with power chips from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia. Mac users have had to make the switch if they wanted to access the metaverse through HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. But that’s changing now because Apple is expanding its VR efforts behind the iPhone and iOS.
Mac is getting SteamVR, according to Apple at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference event in San Jose today. SteamVR is Valve’s open platform for enabling VR headsets to work with games on the Steam PC gaming store. With this software, the HTC Vive will work on Macs, but so should Oculus Rift, OSVR’s HDK 2.0, and most other PC-based VR headsets. This will also enable developers to port a huge number of VR experiences to the Mac when SteamVR launches on the platform at some undetermined point in the future.
If you’re wondering how the hell you’re going to run VR games on your Mac computer, Apple made several other announcements that will make that easier for consumers and developers. Apple is adding support for external graphics cards. It introduced a unit with an AMD Radeon RX580 that plugs into a Mac’s Thurderbolt port to add enough extra power for VR. For now, the eGPU (external graphics processing unit) is only for developers, but Apple said it plans to make it available to all of its customers later this year.
Apple is also rolling out support for Unity and Unreal, two important game-making tools, as part of its Metal graphics API (the Mac equivalent to DirectX), which will make it easier for developers to port their games to that platform.
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All of these announcements reveal an Apple that is potentially embracing video games like it never has before. Unreal and Unity are two of the most important game-development engines in the world. SteamVR is just as crucial to VR. Adding all of this functionality and official support to Mac probably won’t get enthusiasts to flip over to Apple’s ecosystem overnight, but it could at least provide some interesting competition to Windows.
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