The next Apple TV may support Vision Pro-style hand gesture controls

Mike Wheatley

Apple TV is one of the best streaming box options around, but the device has never even come close to achieving the same kind of popularity as the company’s iconic iPhone.


To try and change that, Apple is reportedly mulling the idea of integrating a camera into the newest Apple TV device, enabling users to engage in video calls and control it with simple hand gestures.

The report comes from Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who has exposed a number of Apple secrets in the past, so there’s reason to believe that something along those lines is really in the works.

According to Gurman, Apple still has grand ambitions to become a major player in the smart home industry. “It has discussed automating household functions and offering a revamped Apple TV set-top box with a built-in camera for FaceTime videoconferencing and gesture-based controls,” he wrote in his latest Power On column. "And the technology will all work seamlessly with both the iPhone and Vision Pro.”

The existing Apple TV device does already support FaceTime calls, but requires attaching to a compatible iPhone to enable this functionality. What Gurman is saying is that the newer Apple TV will support this function even without an iPhone, as the built-in camera would be used instead of the smartphone’s camera.

More intriguing are the gesture controls, which currently work in a limited way on Apple TV when conducting a FaceTime call using an iPhone or iPad. These features, supported in tvOS 17, enable users to put two thumbs up to trigger special effects such as a firework display on-screen. Alternatively, making a heart shape gesture will invoke hearts on screen, whereas a peace sign will fill the screen with balloons, for instance.

What the existing Apple TV lacks is more functional hand gesture support, such as the ability to scroll through various TV listings, adjust the volume, playback, fast-forward and rewind. But it’s not clear if Gurman is talking about these kinds of capabilities, or simply enabling the existing ones with FaceTime, without an iPhone or iPad. Hopefully, it’s the former.

In any case, it’s not clear if these features will ever see the light of day. As Gurman briefly noted, it has merely “discussed” the ideas and it might never go further than that. Luckily, Gurman has forecast a new Apple TV to be debuted in the first half of this year, so we should find out soon enough what, if anything, these new features look like.

Apple has previously explored using gestures that could be used in FaceTime calls, and was even granted a patent for such a feature in April 2023. Moreover, the new Apple Vision Pro virtual reality headset uses gesture controls extensively, so the company has plenty of know-how when it comes to implementing such features. It may well be looking to bring them to other devices.

What remains to be seen is how popular the features would be. Depending on what the features do, and how easy or difficult they are to perform (and how ridiculous the user feels when performing them), people could either embrace them wholeheartedly or reject them outright. That said, the Apple TVs’ Siri Remote leaves a lot to be desired compared to some other feature-filled remote controls, so some users may well appreciate not having to pick it up.