Chromecast: the very thing

So many things in life are less than they claim, or that you hope they’ll be, or that you imagined they might be. Google Chromecast, which is now available in Canada, is exactly what you imagine it will be, exactly what you hope it will be, and exactly what it claims to be. It is the very thing.

The future was always meant to be like this. In it, I saw myself drawing down content from somewhere on the Internet and then sending that content to various devices in my home. I’m sure I must have seen George Jetson do that in a cartoon when I was a child. Now I’m doing it too.

The Google Chromecast device is modestly priced. It is about the size of the remote key for your car. It plugs into an HDMI slot on your television. A usb power cord plugs into the Chromecast. The device begins sorting itself out almost immediately. In advance I had installed the Chromecast app on my Nexus 7. Once I activated that app it immediately searched for nearby Chromecast devices. Once the association was made and I had given my renamed Chromecast device access to my home network, it upgraded its software and then a minute or so later it was ready to go.

Go where?

My first port of call was the YouTube app on my Nexus 7. Since YouTube is owned by Google, it is not surprising that it is one of the first Chromecasting enabled apps. I found a video on YouTube to use as my first test. It was one of a friend of mine’s young son playing his guitar. I tapped the “cast” icon which connects the app with the Chromecast device. And there he was, my friend’s young son, large as life on our, admittedly somewhat large, television screen.

I believe, “Too cool,” is the appropriate expression here.

Next up was a short animated film from Google Play. This Pixar animated drama happened to be pre-installed on my Nexus 7 when I bought it. I’ve never purchased or rented any other films from Google Play because, frankly, although the Nexus 7 screen is a marvel, I rather prefer my films to be a bit larger. (It’s okay with me that the kids these days seem to love watching movies on their phones, but it just doesn’t work for me.) Once again the “casting” of the media to my television was a breeze. And the picture quality was, as to be expected, amazing.

I don’t have NetFlix. The main reason I don’t is because neither our television nor our Blu-Ray player gives us straightforward access to the Internet. However, it did not escape my notice that NetFlix is also a Chromecast enabled app. I suspect a lengthy discussion in our house now as to whether or not we should make the leap to NetFlix.

The final step in my Google Chromecast testing was via a desktop computer. In this instance the computer in use was an iMac. The browser I was using was Google Chrome. And yes (you’ll have guessed this), the Google Chrome browser is already Chromecast enabled. Once I clicked on the connection icon I was offered the option of casting any tab from the browser onto the television screen. I think I already mentioned the future and what it looks like. Well my future always looked like this.

Of course the possibility of casting a web page onto a 48-inch high definition television raises a few challenges. For example, I like to watch Hockey Night in Canada, which is streamed live on Saturday nights on the CBC website. I’m looking forward to casting that onto our television this weekend. But already I know that it is highly unlike that the CBC is streaming its broadcast in HD. And that means the picture might look a bit fuzzy on the big screen. Will content providers need to up the ante on such live streamed events? I think so. And this got me thinking of web designers more generally. For the past few years we’ve been perfecting sites that look great on both a desktop computer but also on a tablet or even a phone. Will the advent of casting to much larger screens require a substantial rethink in website design? Almost certainly.

No matter. We’ll deal with it.

After all, now that the future is here we’ve just got to live with it.

Posted in technology.