At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple revealed that it's adopting support for virtual reality by announcing new system hardware that offers VR-ready specifications and MacOS support for SteamVR, Unity, and Unreal Engine. Following the announcement, Valve released a new beta for SteamVR that immediately adds support for Apple’s operating system.
Valve is a major force in the VR industry. The company pioneered room-scale tracking and tracked motion controls in the consumer market. Valve is also leading the charge in supporting the widest variety of VR hardware. Unlike its most formidable competitor, the Rift, Valve doesn’t lock its VR platform to its partner’s hardware. Valve’s OpenVR platform allows any hardware developer to support the Steam VR ecosystem.
Further, Valve supports alternative operating systems. In November, during the Steam Dev Days developer conference, Valve demonstrated its progress with Steam VR running on Linux. In February, Valve released SteamVR-for-Linux on Github so that intrepid Linux developers could get an early start building content for the fledgling platform.
Valve's new beta brings Steam VR, and therefore, the HTC Vive platform, to MacOS. Valve also worked closely with Epic and Unity to create MacOS extensions for the Unreal and Unity game engines. Unity had rolled out the MacOS Unity extension to a select handful of developers ahead of the release, and the results are promising so far. Dirk Val Weldon, founder of I-illusions, is already working on a MacOS port for Space Pirate Trainer, and his experience thus far is a positive one.
“Overall, the porting of Space Pirate Trainer to macOS with Unity went very smooth," said Van Weldon. "We had it running on macOS under a couple of hours. I previously had some concerns about Metal support, but Unity and Apple made the whole process pretty straightforward. Metal support has been hugely optimized in these past weeks and months, and most of our custom shaders were supported out-of-the-box, while we never had Metal in mind while creating those shaders. Great job Unity, Valve and Apple!”
Valve said it also worked with Mozilla to enable WebVR support for Firefox on MacOS.
The SteamVR 1496603050 update is available now through the optional Steam VR beta channel. Opting into the beta will add support for the HTC Vive in Direct-to-Display mode on the MacOS High Sierra Developer build.
Valve said the current build includes support for 360-degree and full room-scale setups that are available for Windows and Linux developers. This early build does not include the Steam VR Dashboard and Steam overlays.
The SteamVR beta for MacOS is available now. To enable the beta on a Mac, open Steam and find SteamVR in your Library under Tools. Right click SteamVR and open the properties menu. Select SteamVR Beta from the drop down list under the Betas tab to download the correct version.