Apple TV gets FaceTime integration and Spatial Audio

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Today, during the keynote for its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2021, Apple announced tvOS 15, the next version of the software that runs on its Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K streaming media devices. Chief among the new features is SharePlay, a live content sharing feature from the new iOS 15 FaceTime app and spatial audio when using AirPods Pro or AirPods Max.

While Apple has been steadily expanding tvOS for years, development of the software kicked into high gear after the 2017 release of the Apple TV 4K, a streaming media device with the same CPU as the company’s iPad. That computational horsepower made the Apple TV 4K capable of far more than just streaming movies and shows from Netflix.

In addition to being the unofficial home of iTunes movies and TV show rentals, the Apple TV became a portal to other Apple services like Apple Music, Apple Photos, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, and its own streaming video subscription service, Apple TV+.

tvOS pulled them all together within one user experience and then layered on a personalized and curated view of the content with the Apple TV app — a somewhat confusingly named effort to make finding something to watch a little easier. Apple soon developed versions of the Apple TV app for other companies’ platforms. It now exists on Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and several leading smart TV platforms like LG’s WebOS and Samsung’s Tizen OS.

It also became clear that Apple’s ambitions for tvOS and Apple TV were more than providing a one-stop-shop for entertainment. With the expansion of HomeKit in tvOS 14, the Apple TV became a central hub of sorts, with the ability to access connected cameras and run “scenes” that could automate a variety of smart home devices simultaneously.

Now that the second-generation Apple TV 4K has even more computing power as well as support for Internet of Things technology Thread, this device — which Steve Jobs once famously referred to as a “hobby” — looks like it, along with its underlying tvOS, is set to continuing playing a vital role in Apple’s ecosystem.

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