Why WiDi Miracast is a Game Changer for Android

I'm an Android fan and love my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone.  It has to be one of the best consumer products I own.  One reason I really like it is because of the open ecosystem and innovation that is available to Android that you don't see on other mobile platforms.  However my new Intel smartphone now has it beat and its because of WiDi

One reason I switched from iPhone to Android was because of the open ecosystem that adopted wireless screen sharing, that allows you to share media between a smartphone and a TV.  For many smartphones and modern TVs this is done through something called DLNA or UPNP.  It's a cool feature not many people know about and works with most modern TVs. But I want more and Intel WiDi / Miracast is the more that I want.

DLNA is cool because I can take any media content from my phone and display on my TV.  I'll have a fun picture or video and rather than have everyone I want to show it to crowd around my screen, I go to share, select the UPnP item and  bam its on my TV.  It's a simple feature and pretty convenient.  Where this breaks down is with web content and applications I want to share.  DLNA will only work with local content, in other words I can't watch a YouTube video on my TV using the technology, unless I use another app that buffers the stream locally then sends to my TV.  Open ecosystem to the rescue, but it is a work around.

Anothey key limitation is with applications, like my browser or games.  Many times I have something in my browser and I want to share it with people in the room.  And seriously I do this all the time, and is suspect many people are like me, who want quickly show somebody something they found on the web where hitting  button to show on your living room TV would be convenient.  I imagine with Facebook alone people might do this daily.  Also for many games I'd like the ability to play a game using my large screen TV. Neither can be done with DLNA but it can be done with WiDi / Miracast

Think of WiDi like a second display connected to your computer.  We all do that, and many of us have a set up at work where our laptop is connected to another monitor.  That is WiDi but its done on a smartphone and wirelessly to anything that has an HDMI port... like your family room television.  If you have an Intel powered smartphone or Android tablet, you likely have a wireless display options in your settings.  TVs have not fully adopted the WiDi Miracast standard as much as DLNA but that is changing. However with a simple device added to any HD tv you can have this feature.  Over time we will see this standard adopted by TV and projection manufactures, but for early adopters and clever developers you can leverage this technology now.

I decided to try this out, so I took my HTML5 game "Altemega Race" and ran it in my x86 optimized browser (See video above). Opera Beta and Chrome for Android are x86 optimized, which means HTML5 will run much faster. My app uses HTML5 device orientation API to get the tilt information from my phone as input for the game.  Now using that with WiDi, my smartphone becomes an input controller for a game I'm looking at on my TV.  And because there is very little delay between device and the screen the experience is fun and I've now turned my phone into a game console.  How cool is that?

Seeing my silly little game is one thing, what about a popular game in Google Play, which was never designed for WiDi.  Next in the video I try playing Dark Nebula, which like my game uses device orientation.  As you can see in the video the game is very responsive, a lot of fun. This game truly shows off my phone as if it was designed as a game controller for a quality console game.  This is not your average smart phone. 

One way to look at this is that there is almost no need for a smart TV with this feature.  A smart TV gives me access to apps from the TV, but with this, every app on my device is now something accessable to my TV.  Netflix, Hulu, Facebook; all viewable and controlled from my smart phone.  There are many use cases and applications with this capability that are yet to be explored. One company working on this is Brass Monkey.  They've been able to get multiple phones to work as game controllers for a shared web app experience.  Talking with them, they are excited to expand on Brass Monkey capabilities using WiDi /  Miracast.  

I imagine there's a lot more innovation from developers on leveraging wireless screen displays in applications.  I can't wait to see what you guys come up with. Meanwhile I'm off to try Netflix.  I have some Sherlock to catch up on.  To learn more about the WiDi read this interview with WiDi evangelist Steve Barile by Wendy Boswell.  It's excellent :-)

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