Apple Releases Impressive Immersive Short of 2023 MLS Playoffs on Vision Pro

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Apple this week released a brief highlight reel of the Major League Soccer 2023 playoffs as an Apple Immersive Video viewable by anyone with a Vision Pro. The impressive footage is a great demo for what sports could be like with immersive video, but there’s a long way to go for it to become a real draw.

Update (March 29th, 2024): Apple has released a roughly five minute immersive video highlight reel of the conclusion of the 2023 MLS season. Apple Immersive Video is the company’s immersive video format which captures stereoscopic 8K footage at 180 degrees. Compared to 3D, video which is like a small window into a scene, immersive video like this wraps around you making it feel like you’re actually standing in the scene itself.

The newly released MLS short is an impressive demo, featuring excellent video and audio quality, with shots that really make you feel like you’re standing right next to the subjects. Some shots show perspectives that people would normally never get to see in first-person themselves, like being right on the sidelines, behind the goal, or even in the locker room celebrating alongside the winning team.

Anyone with a Vision Pro can view the short (no Apple TV+ or MLS Season Pass required).

It’s all quite impressive, but to really draw a viewership into the headset, people are going to need more than highlight reels. Not only will they want to see full matches this way, but seeing them live is also crucial for sports. There’s something alluring about seeing the action unfold in real-time, and many fans won’t go back to watch matches that have already finished.

This has always been a chicken-and-egg challenge for immersive sports video. Capturing an entire game like this—and broadcasting it live—is difficult from both from a cost and logistical standpoint.

But Apple Immersive Video has one key advantage that very few do: social viewing.

The company’s SharePlay feature makes it incredibly easy to watch synchronized content with friends through FaceTime. I’ve long said that social viewing is especially important for watching sports in VR, since cheering with others is a huge part of the sport event experience. The vast majority of immersive video startups focusing on sports have released content in VR without any way to experience it with friends. For many, that’s a non-starter, no matter how great the visual or audio experience may be.

For now Apple Immersive Video social viewing in FaceTime supports multiple viewers, but drops to audio-only while the footage is playing. Hopefully this will eventually support Apple’s ‘Persona’ avatars.

The original article, which covers the announcement of the Apple Immersive Video MLS release, continues below.

Original Article (February 26th, 2024): Apple TV is the exclusive provider of online Major League Soccer broadcasts via the MLS Season Pass subscription. The company recently announced the kickoff of the 2024 MLS Season. It will include new Apple Immersive Video footage with content from the league’s 2023 playoff series.

“Coming soon,” the company says, “all Apple Vision Pro users can experience the best of the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs with the first-ever sports film captured in Apple Immersive Video. Viewers will feel every heart-pounding moment in 8K 3D with a 180-degree field of view and Spatial Audio that transports them to each match.”

This will add to the company’s small handful of Apple Immersive Video content that first became available at the headset’s launch. Some of that content is available for free, but most requires an Apple TV+ subscription.

It’s unclear exactly what the new Apple Immersive MLS content will cover. It could be full games, game summaries, or just highlights of key moments throughout the playoffs. It’s implied, but not quite clear, if the MLS Season Pass is required to view the new content, or if it will become available to “all Apple Vision Pro users” as the statement reads. We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification.

The 2024 MLS Season Pass is priced at $15 per month or $100 for the season, or for Apple TV+ subscribers, $13 per month or $80 for the season.

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