Apple's AR/VR headset is near. Is 3D sport its killer app?

Apple's VR apps sound awfully like iPad apps given the headset treatment - but there could be something really special here

Apple VR concept
(Image credit: Antonio de Rosa)

The latest leaks about the Apple AR/VR headset, most likely called the Apple Reality Pro, make it sound very like the original Apple Watch or even the first Apple iPad. Like those devices, it seems that Apple is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks: it hasn't quite worked out what we're going to want to use the device for, so it's going to use early adopters as guinea pigs. But the killer app may already be in Apple's labs.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, pretty much every iPad app has been reimagined for the headset – so you'll be able to lie back and browse social media, explore Maps, stay in touch via FaceTime and so on. There will be a new VR-based version of Fitness+, although that won't be ready at launch, and a new way to watch video where the screen is surrounded by a virtual environment such as a desert scene or a blue sky. There will also be a "strong" gaming focus, although you should expect iPhone-style gaming rather than something like PSVR 2's Horizon: Call of the Mountain.

None of these sound like the kind of killer app that'll drive headset sales. But that doesn't mean there isn't one.

Could 3D sports be the Apple headset killer app?

The Patently Apple website has spent many years tracking Apple patents and also the companies it purchases, and as it points out one of those purchases is a VR company: NextVR, which Apple acquired in 2020. And that's really interesting, because NextVR was making tech to put you right in the middle of massive sporting events via 3D streaming video. 

Apple is investing heavily in streaming live sports including Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer, and code in the iOS 16.5 beta included a YouTube-style "multi view" experience enabling you to switch between different cameras during streaming sports. Multiview is nice enough on a two-dimensional screen, but the prospect of actual 3D video in the AR/VR headset sounds pretty exciting – and has applications beyond sports. I'm not really into sports, but I'd love to experience rock concerts in VR.

This is still speculation, as we won't know for sure what the Apple AR/VR headset will do until it launches – and if the iPad and Apple Watch are any guide, it'll take some time after that for the headset's strengths to become clear and the best apps to emerge. But this year's WWDC is certainly going to be interesting. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).