A couple of months ago I had a feedback request for Apple TV (from Apple). We have two ATV's - one 4K, one HD - and they're great, so the opportunity to send the team an internet high-five of appreciation was welcome.

Of course I gave the Apple TV great feedback. I love the apps, the reliability and the 4K support, but it got me thinking about what Apple TV could be.

There are plenty of Apple TV enthusiasts, and most have strong opinions about the direction of the product. Does the remote need a redesign? Maybe. Should Apple TV be an actual TV with a 50" retina display? Probably not. Should it have a graphics upgrade and muscle its way into the gaming space? Probably.

My first thought was that Apple TV doesn't need a hardware re-imagining, what needs re-imagining is how we use it. In that sense, it could definitely be smarter.

I don't subscribe to the idea that every device needs to be 'smart', but some devices demonstrate how hardware additions coupled with clever software can make an old device seem magical again. Case in point: June gave an oven a wifi chip and a camera, and now it can work out how to cook anything you put in it. Genius.

And that's sort of where I ended up with the Apple TV - they can make it faster, give it a higher resolution or improve the remote, but there's one thing that could make it truly smart. All it needs is well, how do I put this. Deep breath...

APPLE TV NEEDS A CAMERA (maybe even a LIDAR scanner)

Now, set aside your concerns about privacy - you probably have a HomePod or an Amazon Echo and this is Apple we're talking about. They get privacy.

Let me sell you on the possibilities:

  • The camera doesn't have to be built-in to the Apple TV itself. It could be a miniaturised version of something like the XBOX Kinect, connected via USB-C and designed to sit neatly aloft your TV.
XBOX 360 Kinect Accessory
  • When you walk into a room and sit down in front of the TV, the LIDAR scanner could detect your presence and automatically switch the TV on. It can identify you, it can sign into apps based on your identity. The home screen can show custom content for whoever just sat down - if it's just you on your own, it shows that show you've been binge watching. Someone else? It's their favourite show.
  • Worried about what the kids are watching? Fine. Let automatic parental controls take over. You can rest easy knowing the little ones haven't signed into your library of slasher movies.
  • FaceTime calls. Zoom calls. That's right, less awkward video calls. No more trying to squeeze into frame on an iPad/iPhone. Just sit in front of the TV, ask it to FaceTime your parents and have the conversation, sofa to sofa. Everyone is looking at the camera, nobody is holding an iPad at an awkward angle. You can even drink your ☕ without broadcasting a nostril selfie.
  • Fall asleep in front of the TV every night? What if Apple TV could tell? It could auto-pause your movie and play a gentle 'go to bed' chime. You get a good nights sleep, and you pick up the movie where you left off the next day.
  • Maybe everyone wandered to the kitchen to investigate what smells so good? Is the TV blaring? How about auto-pausing or even switching off, to save power?
  • Youn know that exercise routine you do every day on Apple Fitness+? Wouldn't it be great if Apple TV could tell you're doing your routine properly, or could count out your reps and advise on your technique? Awkward video PT sessions with your phone propped up against a mug would be a thing of the past.
  • Presenting from home? No problem. Make yourself comfortable opposite the TV, and have your slide notes, your slides and your participants nicely arranged on your 50" TV. No more looking away from the camera at your notes and no more wondering if everyone is asleep because all you can see are your slides. Just start your pitch and read notes from the TV like a teleprompter.
  • How about security? Apple TV is already your HomeKit hub...why not turn your Apple TV into a security camera when it's not in use?
  • Games! This one's cheating because the Wii did it first, and Kinect did it second, but why control games with a joypad when you can use your body? Augment yourself into the latest dance craze with a virtual dance mat, hook it up with Apple's yet-to-debut AR/VR headset, and let the TV stop you bumping into walls (it's LIDAR remember). Everyone else in the room what you're seeing on TV.

The point is that there are thousands of real world applications for an Apple TV equipped with a camera. The device would become smarter, and the possibilities for app creators are almost endless.

It's feasible that Apple will give the Apple TV a spec bump and a new remote this year. Most people would be happy, given the time passed since the last update, but if Apple really wants to revolutionise the space and get the Apple TV in to more homes, bundling it with a camera would be, in my opinion, really smart.