Patent Hints at Apple TV Streaming Video to iPad, iPhone

Apple TV's reach could soon extend beyond the living room. According to a newly published patent application, the Cupertino company may be experimenting with a remote streaming feature that would allow you to mirror Apple TV content on your iPhone or iPad.

The USPTO patent, titled "Displaying a synchronized instance of content on a portable electronic device," suggests that Apple mobile devices will someday be able to mirror whatever is currently playing on your television. This feature seems like a natural fit for the $99 Apple TV set-top box, though the patent mentions that the streaming source could also be a gaming console or DVR.

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The patent highlights some of the obvious use cases for such a feature, citing a scenario in which one member of a movie viewing party can leave the living room and still keep up with the action somewhere else.

If this remote viewing feature comes to fruition, it would serve as a reverse version of Apple's AirPlay feature. AirPlay allows you to stream content such as movies, photos, music and games from an iOS or Mac device to your TV, so long as you have an Apple TV connected to your set.

Apple wouldn't be the first with such technology. Many Samsung TVs, for example, have a feature called Smart View that streams whatever is on the TV screen (including broadcast TV) to a tablet or smartphone.

Aside from adding a few new channels here and there, Apple has been mum this year about revamping Apple TV, which streams content from iTunes, popular streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus and select broadcast apps such as Fox Now and CNBC. A remote streaming feature would give some added value to Apple's set-top box, which currently seems a bit limited in entertainment options compared to rival devices from Roku.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico and on Google+. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+.