Google's Chromecast boosted by ultrasonic signalling

Google has announced off-network casting for its Chromecast dongle via inaudible, ultrasonic sounds.

Earlier this month it was thought that the search engine firm may phase out the product as it looked to launch Android TV. Now it looks as though Chromecast's repertoire of features will be expanded.

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At Google's I/O 2014 this week, engineering manager John Affaki said that the goal was to make the social use of Chromecast in the living room easier.

Currently, Google's YouTube app already allows collaborative playlists to be built, but the challenge of bringing this feature to Chromecast was that users needed to be on the same Wi-Fi network. "The initial step of getting on the same Wi-Fi network can be really complicated," said Affaki.

The new feature will allow users to cast content from their smartphone, even if it is connected to a mobile network, through ultrasonic signals. Once support for nearby devices has been enabled, Chromecast will play a unique ultrasonic sound through the TV's speakers that is inaudible to human ears and will pair the phone with the device.

The idea of ultrasonic networking was developed by Google engineer Boris Smus, who built a web app using ultrasonic messaging on his website last year.

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During its developer conference, Google also announced the option to customise the Chromecast home screen with personal photos and news content. The new features, including ultrasonic pairing, should be available to Chromecast users in the next few weeks.