This gadget plugs into an HDTV and turns it into a receiver for video and audio initiated by phones, tablets, and the Chrome browser.
During Google's press event on Wednesday, the company confirmed next week's release of the next-generation Nexus 7 tablet, and Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean" which is rolling out to the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 starting today. News of both wasn't unexpected. However the big surprise during Sundar Pichai's breakfast with the press was Chromecast, a two-inch long device that plugs into an HDTV.
Essentially what Google has done is turn your living room or bedroom HDTV into a receiver and any mobile device -- whether it's Android, iOS, Windows, Mac or Chrome OS -- into a remote control. The major components to make this work is not only the Chromecast gadget, but the Chrome browser and supporting mobile apps like YouTube, Netflix, Google Music and Google Movies. Pandora and a few others are expected to be updated with Chromecast support soon.
So, here's how it works. A Google consumer heads to Best Buy and purchases two $35 Chromecast devices next week, one for the bedroom and one for the den. After plugging the Wi-Fi devices into their respective HDTVs, the consumer labels them as such when registering with a Google account online. Then, with a YouTube app or via YouTube in Chrome, the Google customer loads up his/her favorite video, clicks the TV-shaped Chromecast icon, and then chooses the Bedroom or Den device. That's it.
The deal here is that laptops, phones and tablets aren't wirelessly pushing video across the room. Instead, the media is streamed directly to the Chromecast device from the Internet. All other devices essentially become remote controls, allowing the user to pause, play and adjust the sound using the volume buttons on their device. If the user wants the video to resume on their phone, they merely tap on the Chromecast icon in the app again, and choose the proper device.
This method of content transportation also frees up the device that originally began playback. For instance, an Android smartphone owner can start a Netflix movie (1080p at that thanks to Google's new DRM for streaming media) on the phone, then exit out of the app altogether once it's been pushed to the Chromecast device. The user can then load up the same app on another device and resume control of playback. This is handy when the user who initiated the Netflix playback on his/her phone leaves the house with the device.
"You can use Chromecast to bring a broad range of content available on the web to your big screen, thanks to a new feature in the Chrome browser that allows you to project any browser tab to your TV. From sharing your family photos to enjoying a video clip from your favorite news site, it’s as simple as pressing a button," the company said. "This feature is launching in beta, but we’re excited for people to try it out and give us their feedback."
Google is already offering the Google Cast API so that developers can slip this technology into their current apps with just a few lines of code – no app overhauls needed. More information about the new API can be accessed on the Google Developers Blog here. As previously stated, a number of app developers are already jumping on the Chromecast bandwagon, and it works in apps developed for Android, iOS, Chrome for Windows, Chrome for Mac, and Chrome OS on the Chromebook Pixel laptop.
The device can be ordered online for $35 now from Amazon, Best Buy and Google Play. It will be made available in Best Buy brick-and-mortar stores around July 28. And for a limited time only, those who buy the gadget will get three months of Netflix for free. We like free.