Don’t get too excited, guy who still uses a 1984 Macintosh 128k. You are unfortunately just a few models behind to take advantage of the new VR support coming to Macs.
During the 2017 Apple WWDC (worldwide developer’s conference) it was announced that Mac laptops and desktops would get the graphical grunt needed to meet the minimum requirements of premium VR.
This VR support is really SteamVR support, at least for now. Which means that Mac users should be angling for an HTC Vive if they want to get in on the action. It’s doubtful that this news will be very exciting to Oculus, since a partnership with Apple is a good way to pull in a mainstream crowd who may otherwise care vary little for “complicated” VR.
Time for An Update
Support for SteamVR will be rolled out with the next MacOS update to High Sierra. Unfortunately, given the laughably weak GPUs in even the most expensive Macs ship with, you can’t just get a software update and expect it all to work. Apple’s solution is to recommend an external GPU enclosure that will run over Lightning. The massive bandwidth available on modern external connections is what makes this possible at all.
Of course, it’s still not quite as fast as an internal PCIe connection, so some GPU power is sacrificed thanks to various limitations and overheads, but if you put something like a 1080 Ti in there you’ll have plenty of power to spare for serious virtual jaunts.
This also means that Apple has had to make serious changes to their graphics API, Metal.
Metal 2 has been further optimised to get more out of the GPU by whittling down the level of hardware abstraction even more. This is critical as many BootCamp users have witnessed first hand the leaps in their GPU performance simply by switching over to Windows and DirectX on the same machine.
The Green Light
Many people have successfully hooked up PC external GPU enclosures to MacBooks and the like with various levels of success, but now the external method is officially sanctioned by Apple. This has implications beyond just AR since gaming on Macs and GPU-intensive tasks are now a possibility that should have been there on Machines as expensive as these.
Once a Mac user has an external GPU setup, it also means that they can upgrade the computer itself and keep the GPU over successive iterations. Don’t be surprised if cheaper MacBooks that only use iGPUs suddenly become way more popular.