01.28.2014Personal Tech

Chromecast: Streaming Online Content Directly to a Screen in High Definition

This is a guest post from Tony Beckett.

As an IT director, I'm always on the lookout for new technology that can be used either at home or in the classroom.

Recently, I was able to combine a variety of devices from Verizon Wireless to work in both situations. It all starts with a relatively new product called Chromecast, now available at Verizon stores throughout the country.

The Chromecast unit is about the size of a typical zip drive. It plugs into any available HDMI port on flat-screen televisions and allows users to stream online content directly to the screen in high definition. Once installed, the unit is paired with specific smartphones, tablets or computers. Those devices control the content streamed to the Chromecast unit and your television.

Here’s how I did it at home. I plugged the Chromecast device into my high definition TV and plugged in the supplied power cord. Next, I downloaded the free Chromecast app directly to an Ellipsis tablet, my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone and an iPad. I paired all three with the Chromecast unit through my existing WiFi network. That made each of the devices capable of “controlling” which content would appear on my TV. I chose the YouTube app on my Galaxy S4, selected content I wanted to stream and hit play. I simply chose the “stream” option – and the YouTube video I was watching on my smartphone appeared on my television in high-definition.

Since Chromecast uses the WiFi connection to stream content, I was able to use my phone to make calls or perform other tasks once the stream was initiated. The same was true for my Ellipsis and iPad tablets. And the data I used came from my WiFi plan – not from the plan associated with my smartphone or other device.

I disconnected Chromecast from my home television and took the unit to school the next day. In this instance, I plugged the Chromecast device into an HDMI port on a ceiling-mounted projector in a classroom rather than directly into a flat-screen television. I paired the device with the teacher’s iMac classroom computer through the school’s WiFi network.

With this setup, the instructor had the ability to choose ANY content available on the Web by using the newest version of the Chrome browser. A small icon in the upper right-hand corner of the browser allows for instantaneous streaming of any content visible in the Chrome window. And since the entire system is wireless, it allows the computer to be stationed anywhere in the classroom with no additional wiring.

There are a few limitations to using Chromecast at this time. First, not every device can run the newest version of the Chrome browser, so content is limited to apps compatible with Chromecast (like YouTube and Netflix). Second, you can’t broadcast your entire computer screen – only the content that appears in the browser window.

However, the device was compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and considering the cost of the device is only $35.00 with no additional subscription fees, it is very affordable for both home and school use.

Additional apps are being created that can take advantage of the Chromecast system in the future. I intend to continue experimenting with this great new streaming technology to find even more ways to use Chromecast both at home and in the classroom.

tony beckettTony Beckett is the IT director at Columbia Independent School in Columbia, MO.





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