Three streaming services set to change the way we watch video
Video streaming is changing the way we watch TV and movies for good, so the O2 Gurus have been checking out three of the most innovative streaming services out there.
Tech savvy consumers these days are familiar with a whole host of tech jargon, and activities like tweeting, blogging and Skype-ing have become part of our daily routines. But the rapidly evolving world of video streaming is about to add some new word to our everyday tech vocabulary.
“Casting”, “Slinging” and “Place-Shifting” could soon become a key part of our viewing habits, giving us greater control of what we watch and where and when we watch it. And here's the tech that will make it happen.
Google's clever little streaming device has been available in US for the past nine months and finally arrived in the UK in March. Chromecast is a simple stylish looking dongle, not much larger than your average USB stick, that plugs into your TV's HDMI port, instantly letting you stream online video, TV shows and movies through your Wi-Fi connection. The compact design makes it easy to forget the Chromecast is even there.
Chromecast has a number of native apps for video streaming, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Google Play, but the device has no real interface of its own. Instead you control what plays on your TV through the apps on your smartphone tablet or laptop, which communicate with the device through your Wi-Fi network. You can even download a Chrome extension that lets you “cast” your browser window onto your TV so you can surf the net on the big screen. This feature is perfect for showing your friends a great article or your latest holiday snaps from Facebook.
Currently Chromecast does suffer from a lack of dedicated apps, with no 4OD or ITV Player, but Google has opened the platform to app developers so we expect to see a wealth of new apps in the near future. And at just £30 Chromecast is excellent value for money, blowing its competitors out of the water in terms of price.
Air Video HD
Air Video is an app that makes the best use of cloud technology, allowing you to easily stream videos stored on your home computer on your iOS smartphone or tablet, letting you to access all your locally stored video content on your PC or Mac without clogging up the storage on your mobile device. The app even allows you to watch HD videos from your computer outside your own home via the internet, through the wonders of cloud technology, and all for just £1.99.
Setting up the app is slightly more complex than downloading Angry Birds, requiring you to first download a server application for your PC or Mac to store your video files and allow them to be accessed via the cloud, before setting up the app on your device. But once this has been done, streaming HD video is a piece of cake: simply click on the file you want to watch and it plays as if it were stored on the device itself. You can even watch videos wherever you're connected to the internet, bearing in mind the quality may differ depending on the connection.
If you feel like you haven't got enough grey boxes under your TV to brag to the neighbours about then Slingbox is the product for you. But despite its slightly ugly exterior, Slingbox is actually a pretty nifty bit of kit. It promises to let you “Watch Your TV Anywhere” and it certainly delivers on this promise. Simply plug it in to your TV set top box and Wi-Fi and it will “sling” your home TV channels to your laptop or mobile device.
This works for any live TV you have at home, so you can watch the latest episode of your favourite series even if you're on holiday and make sure you never miss a crucial football match. You can even access recorded TV from your DVR player such as Sky+, making catching up even easier.
This is what's known as Place-Shifting, essentially allowing you to watch your home TV wherever you are from a laptop or mobile device over the internet. Place-Shifting could become the ideal solution for people on holiday or living abroad wanting to stay in touch with local TV and sports. This privilege doesn't come cheap, however: a top of the range Slingbox 500 will cost you £200 and the mobile app will set you back another £10.50, but there's no monthly charge.
If you're not sure about any techy terms, check out our jargon buster