Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chromecast -- the $35 decision support room in your office

In an earlier post, I discovered that my old laptop was too slow to cast video to my TV set, but it worked well when displaying still images like a PowerPoint presentation on a TV set equipped with Google Chromecast.

It not only works for a presentation by one person to an audience -- several people in a room can actively share a heads-up display. Augmented meeting rooms in which participants have connected computers at their fingertips, were invented by Doug Engelbart in the 1960s envisioned and invented much of what we use today during the 1960s.

In the 1980s, local area networks became common, and the University of Arizona, Xerox Palo Alto Research center and others began experimenting with augmented meeting rooms with shared displays. Meeting participants could brainstorm ideas, rearrange document outlines, edit documents, vote and conduct polls, etc. and companies like Groupsystems marketed upscale decision support rooms like this one.

Those rooms cost a fortune and were used as corporate boardrooms, but interest in them has waned.

A large TV set with a Chromecast dongle is not as powerful or opulent as a decision support room, but for $35 it might become the decision support room for (small groups of) the rest of us. Below you see a simple test in which two users are editing the same Google Drive document with the result displayed on a TV set.

This sort of setup would allow several people in a room to share a heads-up display. I tested it with a simple Google doc, but one can imagine using it with the kinds of software found in expensive decision support rooms -- software with modules for voting, brainstorming, outlining, writing, etc. and features like selective anonymity and podium passing. We may find Chromecast displays next to those whiteboards in our offices in the future.

Update 10/2/2013

Commenter Martyn Williams noted that the Chromecast will work with an HDMI-equipped projector, which would enable larger displays in your office or conference room.

Commenter Roger Jennings suggested that the Chromecast could save bandwith in casting pages if it had more "intelligence" -- for example being able to display PDF, Excel, Powerpoint, and Word files.

Together, these comments suggest a future where we have dumb displays with upgradeable, external intelligence. I have changed the TV set in my den 3 times in the last 35 years, but change computers every couple of years. I don't want a smart TV set, I want a dumb display with an upgradeable "chromecast."

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