You may have heard of the Google Chromecast gadget - I got one the other day and wanted to do a quick write up. However, if you haven't heard of this little tool, let's back up slightly. It's essentially a little gadget that you plug into the back of your (newish) television - you have to have an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) connection available, and you plug it in. You then go to the appropriate website on your desktop/laptop/tablet/smartphone and follow the onscreen instructions. When you've done all of that you can then 'cast' what you're seeing on the device directly onto your television. Consequently it's great for watching YouTube videos on a nice television sized screen, or watching films and so on. There are a bunch of apps in the Chrome store that work with the device, and you can add these to your laptop etc.
The installation was very easy. It really was just a question of following the onscreen instructions - it look longer to download the software than it did anything else. The gadget configured itself and the wi-fi connection - all that you need to know is your Router password details, and that's just about it. Once you're all set you see a cheery little icon sitting on your Chrome browser, or in your YouTube application etc which looks a little like this:
Make sure that you're on the correct tv channel for the HDMI port and you'll then see your screen being displayed on the television. Anything that you now do on your laptop etc. will appear on the television.
Libraries can use this in a variety of different ways. It's now really easy to cast your screen onto a television and you don't need to have an expensive projector - though I do readily concede that you need an expensive - or at least newish - television. It's going to be excellent to display presentations, training materials, videos, photographs and so on. A super little training tool in fact, as well as a promotional resource. If you only have a smartphone (Android or Apple) you can still show what's on the small screen onto something much larger.
There are some limitations - you have to have the Google Chrome browser on your computer/tablet/etc but that's only to be expected. In theory you can only cast stuff that you have available on the browser screen, but you can get around that, since there are apps that let you see more than a browser window - so the Chrome remote desktop app is great here - just allow your computer and laptop to talk to each other, and you can then take over the computer and cast what you're seeing onto the television. You could therefore show a game, the basics of another program; just about anything that you can see or use on your desktop can then be shown on the television. I did find that if you have a dual screen/monitor setup this particular app would show both, but that's easy enough to fix.
The price of this gadget is the princely sum of £30.00 and you can buy it from Amazon or all good technical stores, and probably some supermarkets as well now. Set up time from start to finish, for my laptop and tablet (iPad Air) was about 15 minutes, and most of that was just twiddling thumbs waiting for things to download or configure. It's such a cheap price for a really handy little gadget it's just worth getting for even occasional use.