I watched Apple’s newest Immersive Video on the Vision Pro, and it was my ‘aha’ moment

Apple Vision Pro Lenses

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

One minute into Apple’s 2023 MLS Cup Highlights Immersive Video for the Vision Pro, I thought to myself, “Maybe I don’t need to buy tickets to the 2026 FIFA World Cup that’s taking place just 30 minutes away from my house.”

That’s how real, spirited, and stimulating it was to watch some of the world’s best athletes compete for the coveted Anschutz Trophy, awarded to the winning team in Major League Soccer, as fans cheered from the stands, rain or shine.

Also: 7 hidden costs of the Apple Vision Pro to factor into your XR budget

There’s even a scene in the montage when, spoiler alert, the Columbus Crew are celebrating in the locker room with champagne. Even the most VIP of tickets won’t get you a seat that good.

All of these moments were captured in 8K, 3D, 180-degree video; wide enough to span from one side of your peripheral vision to the other, but not so grand as to make you afraid you’ll miss a beat if you look the wrong way. Those specifications qualify content like the 2023 MLS Cup Highlights as “Immersive Video,” a format exclusive to the Apple Vision Pro, and one of the features that has slowly crept up to the top for me.

When I first tried the Vision Pro at the Apple store, I got a sneak peek at how Immersive Videos might transform sports viewing in VR. Watching a baseball home run from the dugout, a soccer goal from behind the net, or even something as simple as someone walking on a tightrope feels more lively on the headset than on a flat-screen TV. Spatial audio, the Vision Pro’s ability to emulate sounds based on location, certainly helped.

Also: ESPN adding local sports to its app and website – is your team there yet?

The level of detail I saw last night when Apple released the MLS montage — its first Immersive Video since the initial launch day batch — was better than any other sports content on competing VR headsets. The five-minute compilation, available for free on the Apple TV app, cycles between various camera angles, some of which make it easier to focus on the ball than others. While some jump cuts were disorienting, they gave me a sense of what camera angles work best for watching sports in VR.

NBA Slam Dunk Contest with Spatial Camera for Apple Vision Pro

The recent NBA Slam Dunk Contest was also captured with a spatial video camera, potentially for a future Immersive Video.

House of Highlights

One angle I particularly enjoyed was the bird’s-eye view, captured by a “floating” highwire camera as players were passing the ball from one end of the field to the other. The panning was natural, and it felt like I was flying above the field. Another shot, captured from behind the goalpost, was creative, but the 3D effects of the camera made the net appear more pixelated.

Also: March Madness brings every game to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the Vision Pro

While short, the five-minute Immersive Video exposed me to the Vision Pro’s biggest strengths and weaknesses when it comes to sports viewing. On one end, the Vision Pro can only stream the 8K footage through 4K-resolution lenses, so the compression (read: blurriness) of finer things like confetti and players’ faces is apparent. On the other end, the experience was so immersive that I could see myself watching just about any sport on the Vision Pro, putting any intentions to attend a live event on hold.

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