While VR keeps claiming new adepts, Apple was yet to make any move or statement on VR and focused mainly on an AR commitment. It finally made it’s statement on the state of VR by promoting VR development on the new iMAC Pro. But don’t expect it to be cheap. This announcement came at the ongoing WWDC 2017. It’s the developer’s yearly rendezvous for Apple developers of all sorts, offering classes and connections to the attendees.
Metal for VR – Creating VR content on MAC
To run VR and develop on iMac, expect to shed more than 5000$ on a system. Your read that right, the starting price includes an 8 core Xeon CPU, Radeon Vega Graphics (undisclosed memory), 1Tb SSD, 32Gb ECC Memory and 10Gb Ethernet. With those specs, Apple wants VR to run smoothly. Many upgrades are available so prep up to spit a few extra thousands if you want the real BEAST. CPU can be upgraded up to an 18 core model, the Radeon graphic card can receive up to 16Gb of VRAM. SSD can of course be upgraded and the ECC Memory can be raised to 128Gb. The result is a machine than can deliver 22Teraflops of computing power. If you don’t have the 5k for the small model, there is also an external GPU that can be added to current iMacs for 599$ that will allow for VR development on older models, but it is HUGE.
It is aimed at developers using Unity and Unreal that will powers both the VR and AR future of Apple platforms. I don’t know how much a PC with those capabilities are worth, but they claim to range in the 7000$ for the same performances. By experience I know getting into VR development can be achieved under 2000$ with a regular PC. Now supporting Steam as well, they seem to support Vive only at the moment as no images of Rift were shown. They also presented a StarWars experience and filmed it in Mixed Reality. It got Apple’s crowd really excited.
Apple just confirms it is jumping in the game of VR, sealing the future of this platform for the years to come. Apple is the last of the big companies to jump in the VR, but they are also the only one with no offering in term of content or hardware. With the ability to run Windows 10 in VR already implemented, a series of headset coming to the market, Sony’s PSVR, Samsung’s GearVR, even LG has the LG360. Most of the benefits will be felt on the entire VR market. Of course, development in AR is also something they are pushing forward.
ARkit! The magic behind Apple’s AR.
ARkit is what will power iOS AR functions. Including many classes, it will offer 3DOF to all device as well as 6DOF for supported device. It is unclear which are “Supported Devices” yet, but I expect that Depth Cameras are either required, or greatly improving the tracking. In addition, Peter Jackson new project, called Wingnut AR, was presented by creative director. An impressive demo was made with flying spaceships and explosions. I’ve looked at many other demos and the tracking seems ok. Some small position twitch seems to happen.
The tools offered to developers are quite impressive. In addition to positional sensors, it also offers image analysis that provides position, movement, key element of an image, anchor virtual objects and even estimate light position to apply them to rendered virtual elements.
No AR hardware was announced, focusing only on iPhone and iPad demonstrations. But rumors are still strong about an upcoming glasses to power the AR apps. Let’s hope for a better, yet cheaper solution than what Hololens currently offers.