Today, we stare into the screens of many smart devices — mobile phones, tablets and laptop computers. Now, the biggest screen in our lives, the living room TV set, is seeing some upgrades that will give it a spot in a lineup of smart devices.
Through a concept known as Wireless Display Mirroring, or “screencasting,” consumers will soon be realizing the benefits that come with “throwing” the content from a small handheld screen to a big, center-of-the-living-room display. The Wi-Fi-based technology that makes this happen — called Miracast™ — has the potential to change the way we think about the TV as a place for gaming, movies and more.
That’s because Miracast, an open technology standard supported by the Wi-Fi Alliance, is about more than just transmitting videos from your smartphone to the TV. Sure, TVs are getting smarter and more connected — but mobile devices are where all of the good user-generated stuff resides. Beyond video, those devices are where we store our music collections, our favorite social games, our photo albums and more.
And while there are ways for people to deliver that content to a big-screen HDTV set in the living room, few of those options are inexpensive, wireless and foolproof. That’s where Miracast comes in.
Miracast allows certified devices to send mirror images of their screens directly to other displays. There are already dozens of devices on the market that support Miracast technology, either via built-in software (as in Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, and many other Android 4.2 powered smartphones), or by using a small external device, called a dongle, that plugs into a computer’s or TV’s HDMI ports (Rocketfish’s video receiver is one example). But that’s just the beginning. IHS iSuppli, a market researcher, projects about 1.5 billion Miracast devices will ship in 2016.
Watch the video: Miracast Demo with Nexus 4 and Rocketfish dongle
Broadcom makes the chips and software that powers both of these wireless offerings, but it also makes reference designs for products that support Miracast technology. That gives manufacturers the ability to tap their creative imaginations on ways to fit the technology into any gadget design that also incorporates HDMI ports.
“The many different ways manufacturers will incorporate Miracast into their designs is going to look like a long tail,” says Dino Bekis, senior director of wireless connectivity combos in Broadcom’s Mobile & Wireless Group. “But if we do it right, the user doesn’t have to get into the details, it just becomes a capability that will be with us for a long time. The only thing that will change is the form factor.”
And the form-factors are practically limitless: Miracast could end up in all sorts of devices and peripherals, such as set-top boxes, projectors and TVs themselves, Bekis said.
Although the geek-love for Miracast is on the rise, many industry insiders are starting to discover that there’s an entire ecosystem of Broadcom-enabled connectivity technology that makes it even better.
5G WiFi + NFC + Miracast = BFFs
One such example is 5G WiFi, Broadcom’s brand name for super-speedy 802.11ac Wi-Fi networks, which are expected to become ubiquitous in the coming years. Though Miracast works on existing 802.11n wireless networks, it will be able to do so much more when 802.11ac routers, with robust gigabit throughput, show up in every home.
That time is fast approaching. This week at Computex, Asia’s biggest mobile and wireless trade show, Broadcom’s announced the availability of a reference design that gives Miracast that much-needed 5G WiFi boost. By the year’s end, there should be a flurry of new 5G WiFi-enabled devices hitting store shelves that should help make the most of Miracast compatibility.
With gains in throughput, 5G WiFi could make Miracast an immersive experience, especially because it will enable Ultra HD television, multi-player gaming and much more.
Likewise, Near Field Communication, which uses a physical tap between devices to establish the connection, will make a seamless process that much easier for everyday users who simply want to use the biggest screen at home to enjoy their favorite content, regardless of where the content comes from.
Miracast Meets Gaming
The experience even includes mobile gaming, one of the least talked about but most compelling applications tied to Miracast.
With the support of game-makers and device manufacturers, even the most complex and addicting games have the potential to become social events, whether it’s friends each using their own devices in one person’s living room or strangers engaging in interactive games from different parts of the world. If a game-maker knew that the user had a two-screen display — a tablet mirrored to a TV, for instance — it could customize a popular game with extra goodies, such as alternative views or detailed maps that provide a leg-up over opponents.
Miracast also becomes an alternative technology of streaming audio, especially if the music application is delivering the content to a TV that has an advanced surround sound speaker system behind it.
A Miracast Future
But perhaps one of the Miracast features that brings the most potential to future, and yet still unknown, experiences is the fact that not every device needs a screen. The Wi-Fi Alliance, the organization that gives an interoperability seal of approval to all new Miracast devices, thinks that a set-top box with no screen at all could “mirror” video onto a TV or a tablet.
Integrating screen-less devices with Miracast technology creates a sandbox for the imagination. How about a camera-enabled robot vacuum that can spot under-the-bed dust bunnies? Or perhaps “oven-vision” direct from the stove that allows the household chef to keep an eye on that soufflé? With a simple, rigorously-tested wireless standard like Miracast, anything is possible.