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Apple's Surprising Push into VR Development at WWDC 2017 Revealed a Nice Bonus for new iMac Owners



Apple's WWDC keynote web page highlights what they announced at the event just below the video. The list is extensive and yet there was no headline regarding Virtual Reality developments made during the keynote. The only mention of Virtual Reality was buried in the link to the new iMacs. There, as noted in our graphic below, visitors would find a single highlight regarding Virtual Reality titled "A virtual first for iMac." If Apple fans skipped watching the full keynote, then they missed out on the story behind Apple's big push into VR that no one was expecting. Our report takes a look back at that single segment of the WWDC keynote to highlight the important news that Apple announced regarding VR that every Apple fan should be made aware of. 


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Even though Apple blew us all away with their Augmented Reality segment of the keynote with a Wingnut AR presentation, they did in fact spend equal time on a VR segment of the keynote, even though Tim Cook had made it clear months ago that it was AR that they were more focused on.


This morning I was reading an article from Taiwan that was so excited about Apple "partnering" with HTC. While I never heard of any official partnership announced, the article made me look back at the WWDC keynote to see exactly what the big fuss was all about. Unless you've reviewed the WWDC 2017 keynote, VR isn't something that Apple is overly promoting on their site at the moment. So for those that missed the live keynote and never bothered to take the time to watch it, here's a focused look back at the WWDC keynote on subject of VR.



The following is a transcript of what Apple's Software SVP Craig Federighi said during his presentation regarding VR.


With this new "graphics power we're doubling down on our focus on pro content and that's increasingly about VR content creation. And so we're bringing Metal for VR to macOS High Sierra.


3B - X99 Metal for VR wwdc 2017

Metal is delivering a VR-optimized display pipeline which provides extremely high performance.


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And we're optimizing our pro apps like Final Cut Pro X for things like editing spherical video right inside the VR environment.


5AF X99 final cut pro for VR

We're also working with Valve to bring the Steam VR SDK to the Mac and we're working with Unity and Unreal to bring their engines for VR to the Mac." The WWDC audience went wild with approval for these announcements.


6AF X99 steam vr coming to macOS high sierra


Then came Apple's VP Hardware Engineering John Ternus talking about the new iMacs. The last model that he promoted was the iMac Retina 5K 27" with the new AMD Radeon Pro GPU Card series with up to 8GB VRAM.




The new high-end iMac will be great "for VR content creation. In fact we've seeded some developers with this new iMac and High Sierra so we could see what they could do with virtual reality on a Mac. And I'm really excited that we could give you a demo of some of this amazing work right now. So I'd like to invite up the stage, from Industrial Light & Magic, academy award winning visual effects artist and Chief Creative Officer John Knoll."


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In the end, Apple's work on VR appears to be quite intense and almost as important as their Augmented Reality announcements. It would appear that future VR games coming to HTC's Vive will play on Apple's new iMac Hardware too with High Sierra this holiday season. It would put the Mac on par with PC's for VR gaming, something that hasn't really been available for Macs regarding current mega game titles before.


While I'm not quite sure where Apple is going with VR, it's certainly a major development that wasn't expected at this time. That's why developers were so excited about that announcement. Is Apple's smartglasses or head mounted display system being developed to deliver both AR and VR? Will there be two kinds of future glasses?


On June 4 Patently Apple posted a report titled "While the State of VR Headsets is at a crawl today, the Market is set to Explode with Vitality later this Year," prior to the WWDC keynote. I had noted at the time that Apple was behind their competition regarding VR, "at least on paper."


So Apple delivering such a strong one-two punch on VR and AR during their WWDC keynote was a big win for Apple and their developers and a big slap in the head for Apple's critics.


It was equally interesting to note that Apple stayed clear of even mentioning anything to do with Facebook's Oculus. For now, Apple is willing to work with and promote HTC over Oculus plain and simple.


Apple's VR news was also exciting in the big picture. You could find a number of Apple's patents regarding headsets in our archives and recent updates to their headset patents here.


In 2016 news of Apple's VR project began to surface and we recorded it in our report titled "Apple's 'Secret' VR Team isn't that Secret Anymore." In a follow-up report this past March we pointed to yet more specialists coming onboard Apple's headset project.


On a final note, Cook said in an MIT Review interview on Friday that it's a "fact that the press doesn't always give Apple credit for its AI may be due to the fact that Apple only likes to talk about the features of products it is ready to ship, while many others 'sell futures.' Evidently the same could be said about their work in Mixed Reality.


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