Apple and Google Immerse Themselves Into The World Of VR

Virtual reality has arrived, and it’s revolutionizing practically every industry it touches. Not every big name has jumped on this bandwagon yet, but now two more of tech’s giants are showing serious interest in this exciting industry.

They’re seeking to provide tools, equipment, and devices that you’ll find at every stage of the process, from creating VR apps and experiences to enjoying them. You’ll be seeing them in stores soon, if you haven’t already.

Apple Provides VR-Capable iMacs and Macbooks

Apple hasn’t had much to do with VR yet, but that’s set to change in a big way.

Apple just announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2017 that their new lines of iMac and Macbook will be capable of the intense processing power it takes to develop VR software. The new Mac OS all this runs on is called ‘High Sierra,’ which is in a developer beta stage right now, and the VR-specific update to the graphics API is ‘Metal 2,’ known as ‘Metal for VR.’ The iMacs will be VR-ready out of the box, while the Macbooks will require an external GPU developer kit to provide the extra oomph they need, connected through a Thunderbolt port.

The iMacs will be VR-ready out of the box, while the Macbooks will require an external GPU developer kit to provide the extra oomph they need, connected through a Thunderbolt port.

Image credit: RoadToVR

According to RoadToVR, these new products will include “developer features such as a VR-optimized display pipeline, viewport arrays, system trace stereo timelines, GPU queue priorities and frame debugger stereoscopic visualization,” if that means anything to you. It will also be compatible with popular platforms like Unreal Engine, Unity, the Steam VR development kit, and the HTC Vive. The Oculus Rift is not currently supported.

Final Cut Pro X is being updated to support 360-degree video editing. Basically, all this means that you’ll be able to create and test VR software in style with these new Apple computers.

Image credit: UploadVR

Google’s Daydream of a VR Experience

It seems like Google hasn’t had a whole lot to do with VR on the hardware side of things apart from Google Cardboard, a simple cardboard headset for smartphones, and similar devices. But the tech giant is now venturing on a new excursion into VR.

Today, you basically have two options when it comes to using VR on your own. There’s the inexpensive option, where you stick your smartphone in a cheap headset and run VR-compatible apps. Then there’s the expensive option, where you buy a VR system like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which requires a hookup to a computer with a powerful graphics processor.

Google is changing the game, however, with their new Daydream View virtual reality headset. They’re calling it ‘standalone VR,’ meaning that it doesn’t need to be plugged in to a computer to run, yet it still offers a high-end graphical experience. It’s compatible with several popular phone models, and it can run about 150 different apps, including Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, many other major entertainment channels, and a variety of games and other VR experiences. It’s available now, and quite affordable as far as VR tech goes.

The Daydream View headset uses the new ‘Worldsense’ technology, which consists of built-in cameras that monitor the space around the user. Regular VR headsets rely on the smartphone’s camera, which is costly in terms of processing and battery power. This is the main difference between the Daydream View and other smartphone VR headsets.

Worldsense also allows the Daydream View to track the user’s motion throughout the room, something that, for the most part, is usually only possible by placing sensors throughout the room. This new tech will work in any room, without needing to set up anything.

According to Clay Bavor, VP of Virtual and Augmented Reality at Google, this should be a pretty incredible VR experience. “By building every part of the device specifically for VR we have been able to optimize everything,” he said at Google I/O 2017. “The displays, the optics, the sensors, all to deliver a stronger sense of being transported.”

Google and Apple are diving deeply into the world of VR, clearly indicating that they see a bright future in store, one that they want to be a part of. There have been other similar developments in recent months, but with the creation of so much VR-specific hardware it looks like they want to be major players.

Want to learn more about how VR is changing the world for the better? Check out the NIST Virtual Public Safety Test Environment Challenge, a $50,000 contest to come up with a way to use VR to test equipment for first responders. Registration for entry is over, but you can check out the challenge page to learn more and see updates from the contestants as they come in!

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