AirPlay Display coming to the next version of OS X

It looks like the next version of OS X will improve on AirPlay, turning an AppleTV display into a full-on display for the Mac and overcoming some of the severe limitations I’ve experienced and written about previously.

Here’s what Apple says about the new feature, called AirPlay Display:

With AirPlay and Apple TV, your HDTV works as a fully functional display. So while you’re using your TV to present a slideshow or stream a video lecture, you can take notes on your Mac or chat using Messages.

I’ll revisit this issue when the next version of the OS ships, later this fall.

I’m also reasonably excited about iBooks for Mac, as this will bring the iBooks store into closer feature parity with the Kindle store. As it stands, I can read my Kindle books anywhere, but my iBooks are restricted to the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch. The demo looked good, and the big advantage of interactive, high-quality artwork and feature-rich note-taking could potentially tip the balance in favor of iBooks for me.

First steps with the lab TV

Last week saw the installation of a large LCD monitor in my teaching lab, and now that finals and grading are winding down and research is gearing up, it’s time to start tinkering with how best to use this beast. In the interest of sharing and recording the various approaches I try, I’ll be blogging it all right here using the “LCDelight” tag. Below is a recap of my first week with the setup, including a description of what has worked well and what has not.

LCD video monitor mounted in my teaching lab
LCD video monitor mounted in my teaching lab

The first issue came up while the guys were mounting the panel to the wall bracket. They had the bracket centered on the monitor such that it would hang at a good height, but this would not allow the VGA cable to fit because of a cross-support on the bracket. The guys made an adjustment and all was well – the monitor hangs just a bit lower, but still fine.

Once they hung it on the wall, I plugged in the AppleTV and… no joy, or at least no networking. It said something to the effect that the AppleTV does not support “enterprise security”, meaning it could not log on to our fancy campus wi-fi network. Big problem. So the short-term solution I’ve come up with is to plug in an old AirPort Express and create a rogue wireless network for the AppleTV and my iPad when I’m in the lab (shh, don’t tell Information Services). This works perfectly, but means I need to manually change wireless networks when I want to AirPlay to the TV – not a big deal, but not 100% ideal.

As far as AirPlay goes, it is all that and a bag of chips. Really. A simple flick in multi-tasking mode on the iPad and a tap to switch it on, and you’re suddenly sharing any app on your iPad to the big screen. This is one of those features that seems so natural and obvious once you use it, you wonder how you could have gone without it, or how you could go back to being tethered with a cable.

Even though I don’t imagine myself presenting a lot of slides in the lab, I wanted to try Keynote with the iPad and TV to see how it looks and works. There is a choice of presentation modes in a Keynote slide show, including a presenter mode that displays notes and the next slide on the iPad while keeping the output on the TV clean. I was surprised and disappointed that I can’t present a slide show with a resolution native to the TV (1920 x 1080). I tried to create one on my Mac and open it on the iPad, but Keynote on the iPad complains and resamples it to fit its own screen.

Next up, I want to find a way to cycle through a series of informational slides without needing to tether my iPad or a computer, so that when students are first coming in to the lab, they can see what to start working on. I’m thinking I might create a Flickr lab account for this, that is available on the AppleTV without the need for another device to drive it.

Planning for AppleTV in the Lab

Ever since I heard that the next version of the Mac OS will feature support for AirPlay, I’ve been working on plans to use it in my teaching lab. Here’s what I have in process in terms of nuts and bolts:

  • a large flat panel monitor mounted in the front corner of the lab
  • an AppleTV connected to the monitor via HDMI cable
  • several Macs and iPads to serve as interfaces to drive the monitor

As of today I’m just waiting on our building support staff to mount the monitor and I’ll be off and experimenting. With four students in the lab for the summer, I’m sure it will get a proper break-in. I hope to convince them to try using it for research and not just streaming shows on Netflix, but we’ll see how that goes.

My plans for it include shooting and editing several short videos on common techniques we use in my lab. I could have these available for streaming on the monitor at the drop of a hat, so if a student asks how to make media or sterilize seeds or run a gel, they can refer to a video clip to refresh their memory. I also plan to have a collection of graphics that I can use for reference during pre-lab discussions. I expect to experiment with how best to store, organize, and stream these reference materials, as I’m not sure yet what will be easiest to use in the moment as well as for students to use on their own. I’m also eager to experiment with using apps live and projected on the big screen, but I’ll wait to discuss those until I’ve had a chance to play with my setup.