VR Desktop Brings MacOS To Oculus Rift (Kind Of)

Apple customers haven't gotten to experience much of the virtual reality (VR) uprising. Mobile VR often requires Android, and popular HMDs like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are currently restricted to Windows computers. Now an app called VR Desktop lets people use macOS in a Virtual Desktop Environment--provided they have either an Oculus Rift developer kit or faith that VR companies will soon embrace those worshiping at Jony Ive's altar.

VR Desktop is much like the big screen simulators used by PlayStation VR and other HMDs to make people feel like they're sitting in front of giant displays or, in BigScreen's case, like they're hosting a virtual LAN party. Whereas PSVR uses this simulation to let people watch movies, though, VR Desktop provides access to the macOS computer on which it's running. This makes VR Desktop resemble Virtual Desktop, Envelop, and other apps.

These apps let people manipulate their computing environments in ways that aren't possible in the real world. People can experiment with different backgrounds to see what helps them focus, split their display into three different parts, and resize each one to just the right proportions. Trying to do that in literal reality (we guess you would call it) would just result in a bunch of confused looks and broken monitors. VR could be a useful productivity tool.

But the primary motivation behind VR Desktop seems to be proving that Macs can handle VR.

"There’s been many naysayers ruling out Mac as a VR platform," the app's creators said in a blog post. "We’re here to prove that Macs are capable of useful VR applications. VR Desktop works on modern Macs with discrete graphics cards."

The developer, Cindori, also said that VR Desktop is compatible with Oculus Rift DK2 and macOS 10.11 and later. (That's "El Capitan," for those going by Apple's new and bizarre park-based naming system for macOS updates.) "We are targeting Oculus Rift CV1 and HTC Vive support as soon as those devices support the Mac platform," Cindori wrote in its blog post. "Our sources tells [sic] us that HTC will be adding Mac support for Vive in Q1/Q2."

Of course, it's in Cindori's best interest to stoke hopes that macOS will head to the HTC Vive. VR Desktop costs $20, and right now its potential audience is pretty small, given that it's squarely focused on Oculus Rift developers who own Macs and want a virtual big screen for their desktops. But at least things are looking up for the Apple faithful interested in VR thanks to stuff like this and Occipital's iPhone-specific mixed reality HMD, Bridge.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.