Google Cast allows screen mirroring and media streaming from Android, iOS, and Chrome — a cross-platform answer to Apple’s AirPlay.

At today’s Google I/O conference the company announced Google Cast as part of it’s new Material Design presentation.

Google Cast is a technology used to stream media content from Android, iOS, and Chrome web apps to devices like Chromecast, and allows developers to build media streaming and screen mirroring capabilities into their apps really easily.

Google’s Chromecast has been extremely successful in the consumer market but its uses have been limited to a small number of apps. By differentiating the Google Cast technology from the Chromecast device Google is opening up the ecosystem to allow developers the space to innovate while still keeping control of the user experience.

Unlike Apple’s AirPlay, Google Cast can be built into any app on iOS, Android, or Chrome. This means you no longer have to worry about whether your device is compatible, as long as the app supports Google Cast you’re good to go.

Google Cast

Interestingly Google uses the term “receiver” throughout the documentation, suggesting that Chromecast will be just one of many hardware and software receivers available. This also opens the possibility for third-party developers to create their own Google Cast receivers or build the technology into new devices such as set top boxes.

From the Google Cast developer guide:

  • The receiver should not have any interactive elements, only informational elements to describe the state of the app, errors, etc. User interaction should only take place on the Cast sender (phone, tablet, or Chrome browser), not the Cast receiver (TV).

  • Remember that the action is happening in the middle of the TV screen, and your UI elements should not interfere with the presentation. Place UI elements within the lower third of the receiver display.

  • The UI should use transparency and visual nuance to prevent overpowering the content. The experience should not feel like a “computer” UI.

Google Cast has huge potential in the classroom. Imagine a classroom where students have multiple devices — Chromebooks, Windows laptops, iPads, Android tablets, phones — and all of them can share their documents, videos, and apps to the teacher’s screen or to each other’s. Alternatively the teacher could mirror their tablet to all of the student devices at the same time.

Google Cast BadgeApps which support Google Cast will be identifiable by the new Google Cast logo.

I’ve always been a fan of Chromecast because of the potential for it to develop into a cross-platform technology. iPad screen mirroring works really well, but Apple’s insistence of only supporting iOS devices is extremely frustrating. If Google or another developer can produce a Google Cast receiver with features such as password management, and access control, this technology could become standard in classrooms. I’d love to see Google build in Chromecast support into Google Apps to allow schools to centrally manage multiple streaming devices across a Google Apps domain. They do it with Chromebooks, why not Chromecast?

The low cost of Chromecast compared to Apple TV alone is an incentive to support his type of technology in schools.

Let me know what you think about Chromecast and Google Cast in the comments!

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About Author

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Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

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