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Streaming Video Magic with Chromecast

Some new devices do something so beautifully and seamlessly that they seem like magic. I remember, for instance, the first time I used the touchscreen on an iPhone. Suddenly, the whole touchscreen concept—which had until that time seemed awkward and unnecessary—suddenly made sense. Google’s new ChromeCast is such a device. It’s an incredibly simple solution to the problem of streaming video from a computer to a television. And it just works. Here are the basics:

  1. Chromecast costs $35. That’s it. Really.
  2. Chromecast is just a little bigger than a USB thumb drive. It plugs into an HDMI port on your TV. If your TV has a USB port, you can plug the Chromecast into it for power. If not, it has a power cord.
  3. You download the Chromecast app for your computer (Windows, Mac, or Chromebook), iOS Device, or Android Device. Launch the app and follow its instructions through a very quick setup process.
  4. Start casting. On your devices, you’ll see a new Chromecast icon in the Chrome browser. Press it to begin casting your current browser window to your television. That’s it. It just works.
  5. Well, that’s not quite it. Some sites, such as YouTube and Netflix, are already optimized for Chromecast. This means they stream beautifully, in full HD. Other sites are not, and can suffer some in resolution because the Chromecast has to do the heavy lifting. I expect this to improve as more web video sites seek to take advantage of the new hardware.

The first time I used my Chromecast, as I said above, it felt like magic. I’ve tried a number of solutions to get my computer’s content to TVs. Chromecast eliminates the VGA cables, adapters, dongles, and all the other kludgy hardware—with their accompanying resolution and color problems—in favor of a simple wireless interface. I’ve started streaming much more content to my TV as a result. As an example, I greatly enjoy NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert Series. I’ve long watched these videos on my computer, but I’ve started enjoying them from the couch while they stream to the TV.

There may also be classroom implications for the Chromecast. If your classroom has a well-appointed TV (with an HDMI port) and you have access to its ports, you could carry a Chromecast to simplify streaming class-related video to the TV during class. Using a Chromecast would also allow you to send video to the TV from anywhere in the classroom, rather than being shackled to the VGA cable. I’ve not yet tried a Chromecast in the classroom, but at $35 it might be worth experimenting.

Have you tried the Chromecast yet? Do you have another favorite “magical” device? Tell us about your favorites in the comments.

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