OPINION: Apple waited to introduce the iPhone 15 Pro to share the Vision Pro headset’s most unique and potentially transformative feature. Spatial Video is the secret sauce, but it’ll come at a huge cost.
Apple has launched a new iPhone 15 Pro camera feature designed to enhance the forthcoming Vision Pro headset. Spatial Video combines simultaneous recordings from two of the iPhone 15 Pro‘s three cameras to capture the footage in 3D.
This isn’t necessarily designed to rebirth 3D video. The format had its big push more than a decade ago and failed to catch on with consumers in both gaming, TV, and cinema.
It seems to be designed solely as a showpiece feature for the Vision Pro headset, which comes out next year. The idea is, you capture footage of special moments on your iPhone and then watch it back on the headset via iCloud in incredibly immersive detail.
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Apple didn’t showcase this during the event, choosing to show the player in a windowed mode. However, you will be able to expand it to full screen. In this use case, it’d could be the closest consumer technology has ever come to enabling people to relive their fondest memories.
Smartphone video is almost exclusively shot from a direct perspective. To have this replicated in three dimensions within an immersive display that encapsulates our entire field of view sounds absolutely magic. Almost as if you can reach out and touch those memories.
If executed correctly, it could be sounds a bit like a time machine where you can drop in and out of some of the best moments of your life whenever you need a pick-me-up.
You should be able to access other people’s videos too, via iCloud sharing. So, the wedding you weren’t able to attend abroad, the birthdays your missed, the sports events you couldn’t get a ticket for, and so on.
If a friend or family member was there with an iPhone 15 Pro, you can get a sense of the experience with spatial video, presumably joined by spatial audio.
What this does for the Vision Pro shouldn’t be underestimated. Until now we’ve looked at the headset as something that lacks a little bit of humanity.
You can game, you can watch movies, you can interact with your favourite apps, you can be productive with iOS apps and use your hands to control the interface. You can also be transported to new realms in much the same way you can with a standard virtual reality headset.
But this is something entirely different. It elevates the experience beyond the drawbacks of shoving an exclusionary, robot-esque headset on your face that only lets you see other people when they approach you. Like they’re going to even bother approaching you with that on your face. It’s incredibly future-thinking and perhaps the only elementy of the Vision Pro that doesn’t leave me wondering “buy why?”
A privileged experience
Of course, there’s a massive caveat to this, which sours things somewhat. The experience isn’t for everyone. It’s exclusive to the privileged and relatively wealthy. Effectively, you’re going to have to drop $5,000 to get a sniff of it.
Or, as a colleague of mine commented: “I can’t wait to record spatial video on my $1,200 iPhone and then watch it on my $3,500 headset!”
There doesn’t appear to be a reason Apple couldn’t make this available for all iPhone 15 models with multiple cameras. Apple hasn’t said whether it will make this feature available for other headsets too, but it seems highly unlikely. So, it’s an added luxury for people entirely used to it.
Another concern is the amount of storage these Spatial Videos are going to take up on the iPhone and, if you’re watching them via iCloud, how long is it going to take for them to load via a decent WiFi connection?
However, those concerns aside, I think we can finally point at the Vision Pro and at least cite a transformative feature, with humanity at its core that justifies its lofty existence.