The Apple TV is just Apple’s hobby, but the second generation little black box is a very capable performer. The device runs iOS, and connects with other iOS devices for AirPlay audio and video. With iOS 5, the Apple TV will support AirPlay Mirroring from the iPad 2, and in testing the feature we came across something else it supports. The Apple TV doesn’t have access to the App Store or apps, but with AirPlay Mirroring, every app that runs on iPad 2 also runs on the Apple TV. Most apps run at 4:3 aspect ratio, and have letterbox on the sides of the screen when viewed on the TV.
There are a number of apps that have a special built-in mode for the HDMI output cable made for the iPad 2. In the special mode, all the visuals go to the TV in HD, and the iPad screen shows a completely different control interface with none of the app visuals. These special modes also work with AirPlay Mirroring through the Apple TV, so you won’t need the HDMI cable in iOS 5. Solar Walk is one app in particular that has a very interesting special mode where the entire solar system as seen on the iPad is now in full screen on the TV. Part of the special mode is 3D support which includes the old school red and blue glasses, but more importantly the brand new 3D technology build into HDTVs. The developers updated the app for 3D support through the HDMI cable, but even in iOS 5 beta 7, the 3D support works over AirPlay Mirroring through the Apple TV.
If you have a new 3D enabled HDTV with Stereoscopic 3D, you can view Solar Walk in 720P 3D. The feature also works going through the Apple TV, which is quite an extraordinary feat with all the extra data being transferred. Stereoscopic 3D provides two 720P HD image to the left and right eye respectively, and the glasses translate the two feeds for your eyes. The Apple TV doesn’t need any additional hardware or software to display 3D, and it even works over AirPlay Mirroring. Does this mean iTunes will start supporting 3D movies? We have no idea, but the Apple TV is definitely capable.
The video below shows Solar Walk ($2.99, Universal) in 3D with AirPlay Mirroring to the Apple TV. The 3D doesn’t come across because we don’t have a 3D camcorder, to properly handle the two different images. Hopefully you can see that there are two images crossed over as it would look to the human eye without the glasses. This is an amazing feature nonetheless, and the PS3 isn’t the only device capable of displaying 3D HDTV. There are so many possibilities, and Solar Walk is a great first example of seeing the Earth, Saturn, Satellites, and Milky Way Galaxy in 3D.