Android TV might have snagged much of the spotlight at I/O 2015, thanks to the official launch of the NVIDIA SHIELD console, but the Chromecast camp isn’t going to take things sitting down. OK, the updates to Google Cast will benefit all Cast devices, including Android TV ones, but tiny dongle that can will be the one that reaps the most. New API have been introduced that bumps the multimedia experience up a notch, including queuing the next video to watch and multi-device multiplayer gaming.
Chromecast is a great ad hoc gaming console, especially when you don’t actually have a gaming console. Thanks to the magic of Android and streaming, any TV with an HDMI port can be turned into a gaming screen. It’s even more fun, however, if you have others to play with. Multi-device multiplayer setup has actually been supported on Google Cast for quite some time now, but Google realized it’s not actually being utilized. So now they have a Game Manager API to make it easier for game devs to cook up the craziest family or party games for the big screen.
That said, it might not be completely fun to be playing an Android game when your attention is being called away by the bustling activity on your smartphone instead of the display on the TV. Wouldn’t it be better if all the action is confined to the TV while the smartphone is turned into a controller only? That concept is called second screen, already implemented in some console games as well as in something like Motion Tennis. The new Cast Remote Display APIs, however, make that a standard feature that any iOS or Android app can use. And it doesn’t just have to be games either. Imagine turning your smartphone or tablet into a digital palette for the masterpiece that’s being displayed on the TV.
Nextflix has it and calls it Post-Play. Amazon has it and calls it ASAP, for Advanced Streaming and Prediction. Fancy as the names may be, their purpose is the same: to keep you from having to get up from your couch. Queuing tries to predict what you’ll want to watch next, in a TV series for example, and starts buffering that in the background so that you can quickly switch to the next episode without batting an eyelash. That said, Chromecast will allow you to reorder the queue to your desire. Sadly, only NBA Game Time and Red Bull TV take advantage of this new feature, but hopefully more will jump in now that the word is out.
For what it’s worth, Netflix added Post-Play to Chromecast last year, but this is a more generic solution for any content provider.
These new Cast APIs are now available for developers to play with. The functionality is all there, all that’s needed is for some creative minds to turn the Chromecast into the living room star again.