Apple is bringing SteamVR and HTC Vive support to Macs

Jumping on the VR bandwagon.

Apple kicked off its annual developers conference (WWDC) today and one of the more interesting themes in the early going is gaming on the Mac. To that end, Apple announced a commitment to VR, with senior vice president Craig Federighi confirming that "Valve is bringing SteamVR to Mac," Arstechnica reports.

Shortly after Apple hyped its commitment to VR, employees from Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Epic Games demonstrated the first native HTC Vive demo on a Mac system. Onlookers caught a glimpse of the Star Wars universe in VR with Tie Fighters zipping around along with an appearance by Darth Vader. HTC couldn't be happier.

"Vive is driving the VR industry forward, and in just the last month alone, we have partnered with the world’s most prominent and innovative tech giants including Google, Intel and Apple, who are aligning their VR efforts around Vive," HTC stated in a blog post.

According to ILM, the demo was able to run at 90 frames per second. While we're still waiting on details from Apple on what kind of hardware will be inside newer Macs capable of VR game play, Federighi did announce a new GPU enclosure for older Mac systems. It will have an AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card inside and will connect via Thunderbolt 3. No price or release date was announced, though Apple said developers will be the first to get their hands on one.

This will all be supplemented by a new Metal 2 graphics API. According to Apple, Metal 2 will enable code to run up to 10X faster than last generation's Metal API. In addition, Metal 2 will support the SteamVR SDK, along with both the Unity and Unreal game engines.

These are interesting moves by Apple. You might recall that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey (who is no longer with Oculus) said last year that Apple would need to release a "good computer" in order for Oculus to support Macs. He later clarified that "it just boils down to the fact that Apple doesn't prioritize high-end GPUs" and pointed out that you could buy a $6,000 Mac Pro and still not meet the minimum specs.

Fast forward a year later and it looks as though Apple has a real interest in attracting gamers, though to what extent remains to be seen.

Update: In a subtle move, Apple mentioned working on VR goggles in a joking manner during one of its live demos.