On Monday, as a part of the roll-out of iOS 4.2, Apple will release a software update to its second-generation Apple TV, upgrading the device from version 4.0 to version 4.1.
The big new feature in the update is support for AirPlay, a new Apple technology that allows devices running iOS 4.2 or Macs and PCs running iTunes 10 to stream video over a local network and have it played back on a TV set via the Apple TV.
By default, the Apple TV comes with AirPlay enabled and without password protection. This makes it easy to use: you don't have to fiddle with any settings to get started with AirPlay. If you want, you can turn AirPlay off entirely (via the AirPlay item in the Apple TV's Settings menu) or just add a password to limit access to the feature.
The other major feature added with the Apple TV 4.1 software is support for VoiceOver, or spoken menus. This feature can be enabled from the Accessibility submenu of the General menu under Settings. After enabling VoiceOver, the user can set the speed of the voice, from default (pretty fast) to very fast (John Moschitta territory) to slow (normal).
VoiceOver not only reads the name of the menu item you're on, but it does a good job of reading metadata, including episode descriptions of TV shows. It definitely enables someone with vision problems to navigate through the Apple TV menu system. My only complaint: at the beginning of every song, it tells you the name of the song, artist, and album. That seems like data better spoken on request, rather than shouting over the opening of a song by default.
For a demonstration of how VoiceOver works on the AppleTV, check out the video embedded below.
Representatives of Apple said that all iOS 4.2-related software updates should be released Monday at approximately 10 a.m. Pacific time/6pm GMT.