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article imagemacOS High Sierra sets the stage for VR and AI on the Mac

By James Walker     Sep 26, 2017 in Technology
Apple has launched macOS High Sierra, the latest version of the company's desktop operating system. This year's release largely focuses on forward-thinking under-the-hood changes. There are also a few tweaks to popular apps and features.
High Sierra is unusually light on major user-facing changes. Apple explained that it's focused on laying the groundwork for the future while making the system more responsive overall. Most of the big additions are underlying platforms of note for developers and upcoming technologies.
For the first time, the Mac now has built-in support for virtual reality headsets. Apple said it's working with "leading VR companies" to initiate a VR ecosystem on the platform. High Sierra already has tools for VR content creation and will soon work with Valve's VR gaming platform, Steam VR.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
Later in the year, more development apps will arrive, including a Final Cut Pro X update that will debut 360-degree VR video editing features. Apple may be coming late to the VR content creation scene but it's preparing a complete roster of creative capabilities now it's arrived.
The VR features work in tandem with Metal 2, the next version of Apple's graphics technology. The Metal API has been improved so it's easier for developers to work with. This should increase adoption and encourage app makers to try out more advanced features. Metal 2 now supports machine learning inference too, giving it the ability to power speech recognition and computer vision apps.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
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The third big platform change is Core ML, a new dedicated machine learning platform for the Mac. It uses Metal to offer developers "incredible" power and efficiency when making on-device machine learning computations.
Whereas Metal's built-in capabilities focus on app features, such as voice control and text recognition, Core ML is tailored towards raw power. It's meant to be used for constructing neural networks and processing sections of natural language, offering developers direct access to the underlying hardware when they’re building advanced AI models.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
These additions won't necessarily have a direct impact on High Sierra users just yet. They're meant to consolidate Apple's long-term presence in the emerging fields of AI and VR, enabling more innovative app experiences over time. To users looking for a big macOS feature update, Apple's decision to focus on internal platform capabilities might make this release cycle a disappointment. The company's still made some user-facing changes though.
Apple has reinvented its Photos app with a revised design and enhanced editing options. The company's also given Siri more capabilities, implemented controversial anti-tracking tech in Safari and added flight status information to Spotlight. Movie fans can enjoy video encoded with H.265, a new industry standard streaming protocol that cuts the size of 4K content by 40 percent.
macOS High Sierra
macOS High Sierra
Apple
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"macOS High Sierra is an important update that makes the Mac more capable and responsive, while laying the foundation for future innovations," said Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering. "High Sierra introduces new technologies for VR, high-efficiency video streaming, advances in storage technology and more, while apps such as Photos, Safari, Mail and Notes are refined to give users even more reasons to love their Mac."
macOS High Sierra is available now as a free update from the Mac App Store. It supports all Mac models launched since late 2009, so the majority of devices likely to still be in use should be eligible. The update can be manually downloaded by visiting the Store.
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