I’ve been a big fan of Freeform since it debuted in December 2022. First announced at WWDC 2022, it was Apple’s way of building on its theme of productivity that iOS 15 and 16 brought previously, such as widgets and Focus. But the more I’ve used it, the more I’m convinced that it was also designed with VR in mind.
For those unaware, Freeform is a recently released app by Apple where you can use a blank canvas to place images, text, shapes, and much more. You can also invite others to collaborate with you, so if you’re planning out a project, it could be a great way of putting down ideas on virtual paper.
I’ve been using it for a variety of things on Mac and iPad – planning out the layout for an office thanks to a recent house move, laying out content for this very site, and planning out a vacation to New York last month, with web previews of different restaurants and landmarks my wife and I wanted to visit.
But throughout all this time, especially after having used an HTC Vive VR headset back in 2021 to play Half-Life: Alyx, I can’t shake this feeling that with a few minor tweaks, it could be one of the best examples of justifying Apple’s rumored VR headset.
Freeforming in VR
For what feels like years now, there have been rumors about what Apple is going to do in the VR space. We’ve seen moments where it’s given developers opportunities to implement AR features in apps alongside demos of using a HTC Vive headset on a Mac back at WWDC 2017 (opens in new tab).
And yet it feels as though we’re about to see Apple’s own take on this through an actual headset. With the VR headset space becoming increasingly competitive, it’s more of a challenge for Apple to justify users spending their hard-earned money, especially with rumors that the company wants to see what its developers and users, use it for.
This is where Freeform stood out to me. Placing images, shapes, and more onto a blank canvas with my fingers on a touch-screen display like an iPad, feels like it could be more at home in a VR environment.
When I had this revelation, I was instantly taken back to other ‘ah-ha’ moments when using devices that I knew would change their category – from the iPhone to Nintendo’s Wii Remote, and Valve’s SteamVR Home app with an HTC Vive headset.
Freeform to the Future
Freeform is a great app that I use almost every week, and if you do a lot of planning and brainstorming, there’s no better app from Apple that can help you with that, whether that’s on iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Again, it feels like it was made with VR in mind, from the multiple boards you can create and share, to inserting photos and videos through iCloud. Collaboration is something that Apple prides itself on with its apps and features, such as SharePlay and its iWork suite of Pages, Numbers, and Sheets.
While I’m not expecting to be viewing a document in VR, I can definitely see myself and some friends brainstorming a trip in the Summer with videos and photos all around us as we try to use Apple Maps to create a route of how to get to the hotel.
Freeform feels made for VR because of all of the above – for collaboration with the VR headset, to make sure that you don’t feel alone when you use it and wear it in your home. The app’s purpose was laid out in Apple’s press release in December (opens in new tab) when it was released – it’s an infinite canvas built on collaboration, especially when it supports up to 100 users. When you read this line in the press release, you can certainly see 100 Apple VR users in a virtual space using Freeform.
If this does ring true and Freeform is one of the first apps showcased with Apple’s VR headset, then it’s going to be a big draw for unsure users out there – myself included.