The video conferencing world is getting smaller. Mobile webcams not much bigger than a thermos now capture entire group video meetings. The venues in which we stage these meetings have shrunk down to spaces so small they’re called huddle rooms. And your pocket-sized smartphone can host a video call among 50 of your closest friends.
This downsizing, however, comes at a cost. Video is, obviously, a visual medium, and video conferencing is supposed to be the recreation of a face-to-face meeting. But you lose the immersive aspect of a video call when the faces on the other end of the line are reduced to just a few inches of pixels by the limits of your smartphone screen.
You can’t make your phone much bigger without it losing its portability, but you can transform it from screen to projector in order to cast a clearer picture in your meetings. The technology is called screen mirroring, and screen mirroring on Skype can make any video meeting a much bigger experience.
Casting vs. Screen Mirroring
Screen mirroring is a high-tech version of the casting technology now common to smart TVs. Apps like Netflix and devices like Google Chromecast come with built-in video-out functionality that lets viewers display media content from their phone on their TV screens. In essence, you’re using your phone–or tablet or laptop–as an antenna to gather information, and then you’re relaying, or casting, it to the more impactful big screen of your favorite TV monitor.
Those casting devices, however, are compatible only with other products by the same manufacturer–Apple TV will only play with Apple products, for instance–and they need to be set up ahead of time so there’s a link between the source and the screen.
That’s not really fitting with the modern use of video conferencing, where meetings can happen at a moment’s notice, and venues are often shared facilities that have to accommodate different teams and tech. Screen mirroring, when it’s done right, gets around that problem by placing a mobile intermediary between phone and screen to make the connection, and projection, work.
Prijector Portable Screen Mirroring
While the trend in video conferencing is clearly toward smaller, more intuitive design, the range of video conferencing providers and hardware is rapidly expanding. We at VC Daily have road tested more than a dozen video calling apps and platforms, and there are just as many webcams and hubs on the market. With all those options around, it’s nice to find peripherals that will make connections between them all.
One such device is the Prijector Pro by Boole. This little screen mirroring box wirelessly connects to your Android, iOS device, or laptop/desktop, and allows you to project content onto bigger screens while being compatible with a number of video conferencing platforms. It’s marketed primarily as a presentation device or digital projector, but works just as well for transferring video conference calls to a shared screen. It’s a hardware solution, so you’ll need to carry the modem-sized device with you or have one stored in your office’s huddle room, but it’s designed for quick setup and caters to the growing Bring Your Own Device market.
As shown in the discussion above, the Prijector Pro can also connect directly to a webcam, which means that when video conferencing with the product you can use the superior controls and clarity of an external device rather than rely on the usually inferior built-in cameras that ship with laptops.
The screen mirroring technology being used here is a step toward the small-screen solution we need to make the most of smartphone video conferencing, but we can dream of even more convenient solutions to the screen size issue.
Screen Mirroring on Skype
With the right kind of combination of Android phone and modern digital TV it is possible to cast media from your smartphone without using a go-between like the Prijector Pro–and you could always use an HDMI cable to physically link a laptop to your TV.
That route, however, won’t give you the range of options the Prijector Pro offers. But, just as USBs replaced CDs and cloud computing replaced on-site data storage, there’s an evolution here waiting to happen. If we can get a software version of the Prijector Pro and couple it with a free video conferencing platform like Skype, then we’d be on our way to solving the small screen smartphone dilemma.
Under those conditions, you could turn any room with a digital screen into a video conferencing venue, whether or not it had a camera or even speakers. You could even begin an unscheduled video call on your phone and then quickly step in front of the bigger screen to get a closer look at the other end of the call–to see a clearer view on the big screen of a partner’s project or presentation, or for a life-sized face-to-face with a new colleague.
Of course, the technology won’t make your TV screen a two-way sender/receiver–you’d still be dependant on your smartphone or laptop’s camera in this scenario (which means it might be worth upgrading to an external webcam for your laptop)–but even without a webcam you’d have the power to make a video call from your phone into a full-sized video conference.