February 28, 2013, 8:30 AM —
I haven't talked about Roku (the streaming media box) very much lately. I suppose one of the 'problems' of being a workhorse device that does what it does really well and without any fuss is that there isn't always a lot to say about it. It just works.
But I saw an interesting post over at GigaOm speculating about Roku's next new feature: wireless video mirroring (Apple calls this Airplay, so of course no one else can call it that).
The idea behind Airplay (as I understand it) is that you can mirror the display of your mobile device on your Apple TV. This makes it easy to show photos, video and whatever else is on your device to a group of friends. Or maybe you just like seeing your stuff on a big screen.
GigaOm says that Roku is partnering with Broadcom to bring this same kind of functionality to the Roku Streaming Stick and future Roku boxes. It's a little unclear if this is rumor, speculation, or fact. GigaOm's Janko Roettgers says Roku didn't immediately respond to a request for comment and Broadcom would only confirm that the Streaming Stick is capable of supporting Miracast (the name of Broadcom's video mirroring tech) but wouldn't comment on Roku's plans.
Here's a video showing the kinds of things Miracast can do:
You'll notice in the demo that they connected to a Netgear Push2TV box to get the phone image onto the TV. If Miracast takes off we can probably expect new televisions to have it built in, but in the meantime we're going to need some kind of box hanging off the TV in order to receive the signal.
I'm sure there will be many devices like Push2TV that will receive a MiraCast signal, but why dedicate a box (and maybe more importantly, an HDMI port) to that single service? Having MiraCast in a Roku means you can take advantage of all the Internet streaming services Roku supports, plus pushing content from your laptop or mobile device as well. Sounds like a match made in heaven.
I have tried using the (soon to be obsolete?) Intel WiDi technology to wirelessly push content from my laptop to my TV. It worked but was very laggy. It was OK for watching a movie, but not fast enough to actually use the PC by looking at the TV. I was encouraged to see how snappy the response was in that Miracast demo video.
Of course Apple TV owners are sitting back feeling very smug right now, and perhaps rightly so. Still, I'm excited about some kind of cross-manufacturer standard for this kind of thing. I don't really care if it winds up being MiraCast or that DIAL protocol we talked about last month. And if it works with a device I already use and enjoy (like the Roku), so much the better.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.