In my previous post about the Apple TV 3, I predicted that the future of internet-connected television includes video conferencing, with FaceTime a leading player. Let me elaborate a bit on where our home viewing technology should take us in the coming years.
Video Chat on the Apple TV
Ever since the invention of television, science fiction authors and filmmakers have explored the possibilities of video conferencing. Corporate boardrooms have made video conferencing a reality, at higher price points. The time seems ripe to bring down the cost and make video chat ubiquitous.
With Siri as an interface, the iTV could include a microphone capable of canceling out the sound from whatever channel or video is playing. It would be trivially easy to use the same microphone for video chat.
Apple's iOS operating system already contains FaceTime for video calls. An update to the software on the iPhone, iPad and Mac would let users dial a number from their phones and then switch the call to the TV, just like AirPlay sends music and videos to the TV already.
Although Apple could wait for a future version of iTV / Apple TV 3 before adding the camera and video chat, I believe they should do it from the first. People don't upgrade their televisions as often as their computers, so leaving out the camera could lead to a delay of years before some customers upgrade. Given that the value of video chat grows with the number of people who have it, putting the camera in the TV from the first version will help to build the network.
iTV Video Games
Another benefit to adding a camera in the iTV / Apple TV 3 is games. With the iPhone app store, Apple became a leader in the video game business long before Angry Birds swarmed the earth. Where Apple has lacked a presence is in the set-top box game market controlled by Xbox, PlayStation and Wii. With iOS on a television set, Apple will immediately have the largest community of app developers creating games for the living room. Hackers have already opened the gates with full screen apps for the current Apple TV. With a camera and the right software, Apple could have its own version of the Kinect, without the complexity of multiple devices.
The Future of Television
The longer term future of television will bring:
- embedded cameras in our TVs supporting video conferencing and video calls
- motion-based virtual reality using the TV cameras
- the end of set-top boxes, as all hardware becomes software
- the end of Blu-ray and DVDs as streaming video takes over
- all TV video games purchased through app stores