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Apple launches Vision Pro AR headset and new sports features for Apple Watch

Tech firm could provide a new content platform for the sports industry.

6 June 2023 Steve McCaskill


  • Apple Vision Pro launches in 2024, costing US$3,499
  • Sports industry can bring existing apps to platform and create immersive experiences
  • WatchOS 10 brings cycling, hiking and API updates for fitness apps

Apple has unveiled the Vision Pro, its long-awaited augmented reality (AR) headset, in a development set to catalyse the wider extended reality (XR) ecosystem and potentially provide a new model for sports content consumption.

The Vision Pro is billed as a ‘spatial computer’, using various visual, audio, speech and touch inputs to create an ‘infinite canvas’ for apps to scale beyond a traditional display and offer entirely new immersive experiences.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” said Tim Cook, Apple chief executive.

“Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing.

“Built upon decades of Apple innovation, Vision Pro is years ahead and unlike anything created before – with a revolutionary new input system and thousands of groundbreaking innovations. It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers.”

The device is powered by a ultra-high-resolution display system comprising 23 million pixels and micro-OLED technology, high speed cameras, six microphones, a ring of LEDs, and spatial audio which ‘wraps’ sound around the individual. These components are supported by custom M2 and R1 chips that process and combine this data to make content appear as though it is right in front of a person’s eyes.

The user interacts with this content via the ‘visionOS’ operating system, which boasts a ‘three-dimensional’ user interface powered by eye, touch and voice-based inputs. 

This combination of technologies allows users to overlay existing applications across a physical environment and become more immersed in videos, photos, games and other applications, the latter of which will be hosted in a dedicated section of the Apple App Store.

Apple is using a transparent ‘goggle’ style design. (Image credit: Apple)

As is typical with Apple, plenty of attention has been paid to design. The Vision Pro eschews the conventional VR headset form factor, instead adopting a semi-transparent ‘ski goggle’ aesthetic that allows users to interact with other people even when they are working or watching content. An aluminum alloy frame is supported by modular fabric elements that adapt to each individual.

The Vision Pro will be available in early 2024 in the US and selected other countries, and will cost US$3,499.

The headset was shown off at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in California, during which the company detailed new sports-specific features in watchOS 10 – the latest version of the Apple Watch operating system.

WatchOS 10 now has more cycling metrics, transfers data over to a connected iPhone as a ‘live activity’, and automatically connects to dedicated Bluetooth-connected cycling accessories. The Apple Watch also has more hiking features, including a new elevation view powered by altimeter data, and the ability to estimate the last place with mobile signal on the compass app.

Meanwhile, a series of new application programming interfaces (APIs) will allow workout and coaching apps the ability to use motion data and transfer custom workouts to the Workout app. Apple Fitness+ has also added ‘Custom Plans’ – a new way to receive bespoke workout plans.

SportsPro says…

The Vision Pro is Apple’s first new major product line since the Apple Watch arrived in 2014 and there’s a reason why so many are excited. Like the iPod, iPhone and iPad before it, the Apple Watch helped popularise or create entirely new categories of personal electronics – benefiting both the company and the wider technology industry.

XR might be the most challenging space to date, but if anyone can do it it’s Apple. While Meta’s investment in hardware and commitment to the developer ecosystem has been commendable, Apple has the ability to generate scale and hype like no other technology company on the planet.

With such a steep price tag, the Vision Pro is not a mass market proposition. But its launch demonstrates Apple’s commitment, provides a commercial platform for app developers to target, and will ensure a populated App Store is available for whenever a more mainstream device hits the market.

The sports industry has enthusiastically experimented with VR but adoption has been limited both by consumer appetite and technological adoption. Any product must be prefaced with explanations of why a VR experience is worth a person’s time and then technological instructions on how to access it.

Apple’s track record shows it can make technology desirable, relatable and accessible. It can do the hard work and the sports industry can reap the benefits.

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