As Apple revealed the latest fleet of the Apple Watch collection, one feature stood out as the most remarkable as well as the most intriguing. The Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 both boasted of a new gesture input – being able to tap your fingers twice to register a button press. This would work remarkably well if your hands were occupied or dirty, letting you answer/end calls, snooze alarms, play/pause music, and even trigger your iPhone shutter simply by tapping your index finger and thumb together… without touching your Apple Watch at all. Sounds impressive, but also sounds extremely familiar, doesn’t it? Because tapping your fingers is exactly how the Apple Vision Pro registers click inputs too.
When Apple debuted the Vision Pro at WWDC in June, their biggest claim was that the Vision Pro was an entirely controller-free AR/VR headset, letting you manipulate virtual objects using just your hands. However, news emerged that Apple was, indeed, figuring out a traditional controller substitute that would be much more reliable than just human hands. It seems like the Apple Watch could be that perfect alternative.
The Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra Series 2 were unveiled this year, with a few standout upgrades. Both watches now come with 2000 Nits peak brightness, doubling last year’s capabilities. They both also rely on the new S9 SiP (the watch’s dedicated chipset) which now runs Siri locally on the device, without relying on the internet. The watches are also accompanied by new bands, including the FineWoven fabric that now replaces all leather accessories in Apple’s catalog… but more importantly, both the Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra Series 2 accept the new finger-tapping gesture that does what the home button on both watches would do. The feature’s due to roll out next month as Apple calibrates how it works… but the implications of the feature go beyond just the watch. In fact, the Watch could be the secret controller the Vision Pro truly needs to enhance its Spatial Computing Experience.
Sure, the Vision Pro has multiple cameras that track your environment, also keeping an eye on your hands to see where you’re pointing, tapping, and pinching. The big caveat, however, is any situation where the Vision Pro CAN’T see your hands. If you’ve got your hands under a table, in your pocket, or behind your back, the Vision Pro potentially wouldn’t be able to recognize your fingers clicking away… and that’s a pretty massive drawback for the $3500 device. Potentially though, the Apple Watch helps solve that problem by being able to detect finger taps… although only on one hand.
The way the ‘Double Tap’ feature works on the watch is by relying on the S9 SiP. The chipset uses machine learning to interpret data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and optical heart sensor to detect when you tap your fingers twice. The feature only works with the hand that’s wearing the Watch (you can’t tap your right-hand fingers while the Watch is on your left hand), but even that’s enough to solve the Vision Pro’s big problem. Moreover, the new Ultra Wide Band chip on the watch can help with spatial tracking, letting your Vision Pro when your hands are in sight and when they aren’t. While Apple hasn’t formally announced compatibility between the Watch and the Vision Pro, we can expect more details when Apple’s spatial-computing headset formally launches next year. The Vision Pro could get its own dedicated keynote event, or even be clubbed along with the new iPad/MacBook announcements that often happen at the beginning of the calendar year.