Apple TV's next update will add FaceTime, dialogue-enhancement feature, remote finder and more

The new FaceTime app on Apple TV will let users initiate calls directly from Apple TV, or start calls on iPhone or iPad and hand them off to Apple TV. — Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

A software update for Apple TV devices coming this fall can turn customers' big-screen TVs into videconferencing hubs with the addition of Apple's FaceTime, and later Zoom and Webex.

The tvOS 17 update, the next version of Apple's operating system for Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD, also includes a feature called Enhance Dialogue, which promises to let users more clearly hear what is being said over the effects, action and music in a movie or TV show. The catch: It will work only on Apple TV 4K devices that are paired with Apple's HomePod (second generation) smart speakers.

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In one handy new feature, tvOS 17 will let iPhone users locate the Apple TV's Siri Remote if, say, it gets stuck between couch cushions or has fallen behind a cabinet. With the Apple TV remote inside the iPhone's Control Center, an onscreen circle grows in size as users get closer to the misplaced remote. In another cross-device integration feature, if you use the remote on iPhone to wake up and control Apple TV, you will be automatically switched to your user profile.

The tvOS 17 update is currently available as a developer beta, and it will be available as a free software update this fall for Apple TV 4K and Apple TV HD. The tech giant announced the software update Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), where it also unveiled the new Vision Pro augmented-reality headset.

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"tvOS 17 transforms the biggest screen in the home with FaceTime and new video conferencing capabilities, giving Apple TV 4K users the ability to easily connect with anyone right from their living room," said Bob Borchers, Apple VP of worldwide product marketing. "New features and enhancements make Apple TV simpler to use and even more enjoyable, reinforcing it as the absolute best option in the living room for Apple customers."

The new FaceTime app on Apple TV will let users initiate calls directly from Apple TV, or start calls on iPhone or iPad and hand them off to Apple TV. FaceTime on Apple TV takes advantage of Continuity Camera support (to wirelessly connect to a user's iPhone or iPad). The app's Center Stage feature is designed to keep participants "perfectly framed on the screen, even as they move around," according to Apple. In addition, new gesture-based reactions let callers to use their hands to generate onscreen effects, such as hearts or fireworks. You can also use the Split View for Apple TV feature to watch shows or movies during a SharePlay session while also seeing everyone on a FaceTime call.

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Later this year, videoconferencing apps including Webex by Cisco and Zoom will launch on tvOS, Apple said. Developers can tap into the Continuity Camera APIs on Apple TV 4K to integrate the iPhone or iPad camera and microphone into their tvOS app to create "new shared and immersive entertainment experiences for the living room," the company said.

A new karaoke feature in tvOS17, called Apple Music Sing, lets you sing along to your favorite tracks while also integrating with an iPhone or iPad camera so you can see yourself onscreen and add various filters.

The tVOS 17 update also adds the ability to use curated photo collections (from a personal and/or shared library) in screensaver mode. And Apple TV's aerial screensavers collection will add several new locations, including Arizona's Monument Valley and California's coastal redwoods.

Additional features in tvOS 17 include: a new Control Center panel that displays system status, including the time and active profile, and expands with details based on a user's activity; Dolby Vision 8.1 support; Apple Fitness+ enhancements, including custom workouts or meditation schedules based on day, duration, workout type and more; and third-party VPN support, which enables developers to create VPN apps for Apple TV (aimed at enterprise and education users who want to access content on their private networks). – Variety Entertainment News Service/Tribune News Service

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