Using Oculus Rift on Macbook Pro

Oculus Rift took the world of virtual reality by storm when it first hit the markets in March 2016. The brainchild of Palmer Luckey, Oculus Rift was the world’s first commercial VR headset that went on to become intensely popular, inspiring the release of a series of budget and expensive models. However, the Oculus Rift was initially compatible only with Windows OS implying that Macbook Pro users were unable to take advantage of the VR headset.

To put it in perspective, the older versions of Macbook, including the Macbook Pro and Macbook Air were not VR compatible. In other words, most of the older Macbook versions lacked the GPU specs or graphical power necessary for using Oculus. So, if you’ve a Macbook Mini or Macbook Air, you’ll need to plug in an eGPU (external graphics card) for using the Oculus Rift.

However, Apple declared in the Worldwide Developers Conference in 2017 that it would launch Macbook laptops and Mac desktops with advanced hardware, rendering them companionable with VR.

Earlier Versions of Macbook Pro were incompatible with Oculus Rift

Oculus Rift made an announcement in May of 2015 that caused a lot of heartache to VR aficionados using Macbook. The company made it known via a blog that it was concentrating on developing a VR headset attuned for using with Windows- compliant content, hardware and software. Towards that end, developing VR headsets for complying with Linux and Mac OS X were put on hold.

Oculus at the outset, concentrated solely on creating a virtual reality headset that worked with Windows OS. The reason why Oculus focused on developing a VR headset for Window was that the Macbook mini and the Macbook Pro did not have the specs to run Rift. In fact, the Intel graphics cards did not have enough juice to use the Rift.

The dual AMD FirePro cards embedded in the Macbook Pro did not have the software or hardware backup for powering Oculus Rift. To make the most of Oculus Rift, your laptop or desktop should have the following specs:

  • Windows 7 SP1 or later
  • HDMI 1.3 output backed by a 297MHz clock through a direct output setup
  • 2 USB 3.0 ports
  • 8GB RAM support
  • Intel i5-4590 compliant or higher
  • AMD 290 or Nvidia GTX 970 GPU or greater

Unfortunately, the earlier Macbook versions did not have the above specifications.

Apple Broadcasts Support for VR at WWDC 2017

Apple made it public in 2017 that they would soon be releasing Macbook versions with hardware upgrades that’d allow users to enjoy VR. For instance, the company publicized the release of iMac Pro loaded with a versatile graphics card, enabling users to take advantage of Oculus Rift. Apple further announced that it would release a range of powerful graphics card that were well-suited with numerous iMac variants like Radeon Pro 560 and Pro 555.

Making Your Macbook Pro Compatible with Oculus Rift

Before you proceed to make your old Macbook Pro compilable with Rift, you’d be better off purchasing a desktop or laptop that is VR ready. Making your older Macbook work with Oculus may turn out to be more expensive than buying a VR ready PC. On the other hand, you can also consider buying the latest Apple software and hardware that are highly companionable with Rift, Samsung Gear or Sony PS VR.

In order to match your Macbook Pro with Rift, you’ll at least need an AMD Radeon 290 or Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card. Your Macbook Pro will not have the juice to run the Rift without the support of an eGPU or external graphics unit processor. At the same time, you’ll need to have a PCIe Box with suitable power supply for powering up the eGPU.

Additionally, you’ll require 2 X USB 3.0 receptacles, HDMI 1.3 video output port (with a minimum of 297MHz frequency), HDMI cable (for linking HDMI to mini port), and at least 8GB RAM. In the next step, you’ll have to connect the above components with your Macbook Pro. Putting the parts together should not be an issue and you do not need to be tech geek to do so. For a start, install Oculus Runtime Files together with the Oculus SDK (for Mac OS X). Follow the ‘World Demo’ carefully so that you can install the Oculus properly. Once you’ve downloaded and correctly installed the relevant files, you’re ready to put the Rift to optimum use.

Conclusion

You’ll definitely need to upgrade your older or earlier Macbook Pro or Macbook Air to make it compatible with Oculus Rift. In case you’ve the iMac Pro, you can use it with HTC Vive. Alternatively, you can opt for the Mac OS High Sierra that is fully companionable with HTC’s Vive.

And if you want to match up the older Macbook Pro with Rift, you’ll have to rely on eGPU and DIY projects.

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