Level Up with MHL
MHL, LLC Staff
July 22, 2016
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “mobile gaming”? Angry Birds? Game of War? Well for many of us at MHL, it’s Sonic The Hedgehog. What you may not realize is that you can play Sonic and other classic gaming titles on your Android phone using a Bluetooth gaming controller that is laid out a lot like the classic gaming console controllers. If your phone supports MHL you can also use your TV as the display. We recently tested out two such controllers the MOGA PRO and MOGA PRO 2.
When you get home, you can switch to the big screen using a MHL cable or adapter, which streams the Android Smartphone video in full 1080p resolution (4K for some phones) and keeps charging your phone while you play. The MHL connection also supports multi-channel audio (up to 7.1 surround sound.) Not sure if your phone supports MHL, you can check here http://www.mhltech.org/devices.aspx.
The first step to using these controllers is to turn on your Bluetooth in your phone or tablet and scan for new devices while powering on your controller by moving the switch to the A or B position (most apps use A, and the app will tell you when to use B.) You should be able to see your controller show up in the list of “Found” devices and then pair it. (See screenshot below.)
When your Android phone or tablet has been properly paired with the controller via Bluetooth, you next need to run the corresponding app. For The MOGA devices, it’s called the MOGA Pivot. The app will make sure that your controller is properly synced up with your phone, and also serves as a “mini-marketplace” for downloading compatible games.
One game we tested was Sega’s Virtua Tennis Challenge, which like many Android games, allows you to test drive the game for free, by completing the half dozen tennis lessons (which teach you how to play) and then playing in one real tennis match. The Virtua Tennis Challenge really takes advantage of the various buttons on the blue-tooth controller, allowing you to smash, lob, or send a powerful serve to different areas of your opponents court. Combine this advanced gaming interface with an MHL connection, some good speakers, and a comfy couch or recliner, and you will quickly forget you are playing a video game on your phone.
In addition to various Sonic games, Zen Pinball, and Virtua Tennis Challenge, we tested out the controllers on some other titles like Stupid Zombies 2, Tiny Little Racing 1 and 2, and Jet Set Radio, Soulcraft, and retro “Tony Crack” type skateboarding game. The controllers worked well although for best results we recommend pairing a single controller at a time.
Pro Tip -- If you get a Bluetooth gaming controller like the MOGA Pro or PRO2, the first thing you should do is download the corresponding app AND update the firmware.
The bottom line is playing mobile games using a Bluetooth controller and MHL connection is a blast and certainly beats blowing the dust out of a Sega Genesis cartridge.
Enabling High Performance Video Over USB Type-C With MHL/superMHL
MHL, LLC Staff
July 1, 2016
Just when you thought you knew everything you needed to know about USB…the new USB Type C comes along. The new USB Type-C is a both a new connector and a new standard in device connectivity. It combines power, control, audio, and video signals into one universal connector for computers, mobile devices, even IoT devices like USB powered light fixtures.
Before we delve into the benefits of the new USB type C, let’s quickly review USB Type A and B. The first USB 1.0 connectors debuted about 20 years ago. The Type A connector plugged into your computer (technically known as the ‘host’) and the Type-B connector would plug into your printer or scanner (also known as a ‘device’).
Consumers quickly learned about miniaturized versions of the USB connector, mini-USB and micro-USB; the lesson often learned soon after they misplaced their phone charger and needed to borrow or buy a new USB cable to charge their phone.
The USB Type-C interface specification promises to change the way computers, consumer electronics and mobile devices connect and interact. The slim, rugged and reversible Type-C connector extends the capabilities introduced by the USB 3.1 SuperSpeed+ specification by using up to 2 USB 3.1 interfaces to provide a total bandwidth of potentially 20Gbps. This allows faster transfer and streaming of large files such as HD movies and 3D images.
USB Type-C’s high-power capabilities mean it can supply up to 100W to allow fast battery charging and the provision of power to larger devices such as laptops, monitors and TVs. Type-C also introduces several other unique features, including new Alternate Modes which can enable the USB connector and cable to carry other content like video streams; although so far, only DisplayPort and MHL®/superMHL® Alternate Modes have been defined.
To help foster the innovation and adoption of USB Type-C and MHL superMHL in phones, MediaTek and Lattice Semiconductor recently released power-efficient reference designs that drive 4K UHD over a USB Type-C connector. Lattice’s USB Type-C port controllers and MHL transceivers can easily be paired with MediaTek’s Helio™ X20, the world’s first mobile processor with Tri-Cluster™ CPU architecture and ten processing cores (Deca-core). Read the press release here. http://www.latticesemi.com/en/About/Newsroom/PressReleases/2016/201603144KVideooverUSBTypeC.aspx
The Content Revolution and What It Means for superMHL
MHL, LLC Staff
June 20, 2016
There’s a revolution happening in digital content, and it’s having a profound effect on how consumers store, access and view/listen to their pictures, TV shows, movies and music. Let’s take a moment to examine why this revolution is happening and what it means for the future of MHL.
Cord Cutting – As more consumers get used to the convenience of streaming media, there’s been a decrease in demand for traditional content distribution models (broadcast, satellite, cable). Consumers are happily ditching their cable and satellite plans, particularly younger users, and getting their content via the Internet.
4K Content – While the broadcast networks aren’t quite ready to take 4K mainstream (in their defense, they have a lot of infrastructure that needs updating to support 4K), the streaming services are already offering 4K content. As compression technologies improve and broadband Internet speeds rise, it’s now easy to deliver 4K video streams to any consumer with a broadband connection. This is also having a profound effect on DVD and downloadable music sales as it becomes more cost-effective for consumers to get their content via a streaming service with a low monthly subscription fee.
Mobile Broadband – Mobile broadband makes it easy to enjoy video in real time, and its proven to be the major consumer of precious megabytes for most mobile data plans. However, T-Mobile recently announced a mobile broadband package where customers can stream content for many popular streaming apps (Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Hulu and others) with no data charges. This is sure to attract the attention of tablet and smartphone users, particularly those in metropolitan regions where LTE and other mobile broadband technologies are readily available. If other service provides follow suit, mobile broadband may soon be the delivery method of choice for the vast majority of consumers, even replacing wired broadband connections to the home.
Mobile Technology – As Moore’s Law continues to make processing both inexpensive and powerful and smartphones/tablets have become indispensable part of many consumers’ daily lives, OEMs continue to launch increasingly powerful mobile devices that are becoming the primary platform for content consumption.
So, as we take into account each of these developments driving the content revolution, it would appear the new norm for consuming digital content is to stream high-resolution video to a mobile device. But the one thing a mobile device can’t do is provide that content in a big screen format, one that allows content to be shared. Sounds like a job for superMHL, doesn’t it?
With superMHL-enabled devices and a superMHL cable, consumers can quickly connect their mobile devices to a 4K display or projector to take their mobile experience to the big screen. Unlike wireless approaches, it doesn’t require wrestling with WiFi settings or potentially exposing your mobile device to cyberattack through unsecure public WiFi networks. And only superMHL currently has the technical ability to present 4K content at a full 120 fps (in addition to supporting HD audio, high-speed data and device charging all over one cable).
With superMHL, streaming 4K content and low-cost mobile broadband, consumers could replicate the same content experience that used to require set-top boxes, DVD players and cable modems with a smartphone, a mobile data plan and an MHL-enabled HDTV or display. Ain’t technology grand?
How to Be More Productive Using MHL, Part 2: Microsoft Word on Your Android Devices
MHL, LLC Staff
May 27, 2016
This is Part 2 in a series of posts about productivity. To read Part 1, click here.
As a real world example, I am drafting this blog post on my Android phone, a 720p display with HDMI input, my MHL adapter, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a Bluetooth mouse, (both from Microsoft). I purposely bought a blue-colored mouse so I would remember it’s “the Bluetooth one”.
Once I had my MHL workstation setup, I needed to download some apps. A natural choice when using an Android Device would be Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides. These provide good collaboration features, however they don’t work very well with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
So, I downloaded Microsoft Word for Android, and grabbed PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote at the same time. I also downloaded a really cool app called Office Lens, which turns your camera phone into a scanner, with full OCR. All of these Microsoft apps are free for Android mobile phones and tablets.
As I launched Word, there was one intermediate screen that switched back to Portrait Mode, see photo below.
This is a common problem with apps, as many of them were designed for Portrait Mode, and then later adapted to work in Landscape mode. Luckily, it was only one screen that did this (see Launcher apps in Part 1).
Generally speaking, the Microsoft apps and Bluetooth hardware work pretty well with Android and MHL, although there is still a learning curve, even if you have used Microsoft Office for the PC. For example, spreadsheets are inherently sized for mobile screens when opened on Android devices.
The next step is to choose a blank document or template. I like to start my drafts as an outline, so I used the Make a List template, which looks like this:
In Word for Android, the right click button takes you out of your document. The good news is that the document is auto saved often.
Be sure to save your work one last time: click the menu button in the upper left hand corner and you will see a menu on the left hand side of the screen, where you can save, print, or share the current document.
Click “Save As” and then rename it something you can recognize
If you click “Share” you see even more ways to save and share, like uploading to Dropbox or sending an email.
After using your phone or tablet a few times in this manner, it will become second nature to you. Soon you’ll find yourself wondering why you need to carry around a heavy laptop. You’ll also be teaching your friends how to be more productive from their smartphones and tablets with a little help from MHL technology.
To see a list of compatible phones and devices, visit www.mhltech.org
How to Be More Productive Using MHL Part 1: Your MHL Workstation and Bluetooth Devices
MHL, LLC Staff
May 9, 2016
Have you ever wished your Android phone had a mouse, keyboard and full-sized video display so you could use it more like your laptop or home computer? Did you know that most Android phones already have the capability to do this, all thanks to MHL®, which connects your Android smartphone or tablet to your TV or monitor?
To get started setting up your MHL workstation, you will need a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. Pair the keyboard and mouse one at a time by powering them on and setting your Android device to “Scan” mode. Test by moving the cursor.
Connect your Android device to your TV or computer display using your MHL cable or adapter, which conveniently provides power to charge your device while you use it. Choose the proper input on your TV or monitor using the input button on the display or the remote control. When properly connected, the Android screen will be mirrored on your larger display. For additional ease-of-use, place your Android device on an easel-type stand so you can easily swipe the screen and change pages.
Next, switch your Android device to “Landscape Mode”. On my mobile phone, I simply need to enable the “Screen Rotation” feature. If your phone won’t let you switch to Landscape mode, you may need to download a third-party Launcher app. Launcher is basically what controls your home screen, and there are third party apps that allow you to switch to landscape mode and use the mouse:
It’s good to know a few tips and tricks when using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with your Android phone or tablet. For example, the “right click” button on my Bluetooth mouse does not function the same way it does on my PC or Mac. In Android ecosystems, the right click button mimics the “Back” button on your Android phone. Many keyboards will have a “Home” and “Menu” button, which mimic those buttons on your Android device. The Home Button may be the Windows button on some keyboards.
Knowing this and a few more keyboard shortcuts is the difference between a good experience and a painful one. Be aware that shortcuts vary based on the app and the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse you are using.
You may also want to try these shortcuts when using MHL and your mobile apps:
- Recent Apps --Alt-Tab or long press of the Home button
- Move forward/back through apps list - Alt-tab or Shift-Alt-Tab
- Menu -- Control-Esc or Menu Button
- Back – Escape or Right Click on Mouse
In some apps hitting Esc will hide the onscreen keyboard, just like hitting the back button would on an Android device. Other shortcuts carry over from your laptop or computer. For example, hitting the space bar will page down on web browsers, or will push pause if you are watching a YouTube video.
This is the end of Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, when we share tips for using Microsoft Word on an MHL-capable Android device.
For a list of compatible phones and devices, visit www.mhltech.org.
MHL & JCE at CES Asia 2016
We’re excited about exhibiting at CES Asia 2016 taking place in Shanghai, China May 11-13th! Come visit us as we partner with one of our valued members, Johnson Components and Equipments Co. Ltd. (JCE).
Attending the show? Come visit us!
Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) in Shanghai, China
Hall N2 - 2084
May 11–13, 2016
Wednesday, May 11 - 9AM - 5 PM
Thursday, May 12 - 9AM - 5 PM
Friday, May 13 - 9AM - 3 PM
Our MHL Alt Mode for USB Type-C™ Demo can connect tomorrow’s phones with USB Type-C to today’s ecosystem of MHL TVs, monitors, AVRs and more.
JCE will showcase their MHL, USB Type-C and other products. Learn how they leverage the latest innovations in advanced machinery to integrate all of the necessary components into a cable or adapter.
To schedule a meeting at CES 2016, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to seeing you in Shanghai!
Unlocking the Door to Truly Immersive Virtual Reality with SuperMHL
Gordon Hands – President, MHL Consortium
April 08, 2016
Despite numerous delays including some supply chain issues, Facebook-owned Oculus finally started shipping its much-anticipated Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset late last month. Like many people, I have yet to get my hands on one, or should I say, head in one. I have been interested in virtual reality (or VR) ever since I first saw the Holodeck on episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But yesterday’s science fiction is on its way to becoming reality as game developers race to write apps for these new VR headsets, while others produce content specifically designed for VR.
A high frame rate and high quality video is important to achieve the proper presence in virtual reality, which is defined by Oculus as “the unmistakable feeling that you’ve been teleported somewhere new. Comfortable, sustained presence requires a combination of the proper VR hardware, the right content, and an appropriate system.”
Currently the Occulus Rift and its biggest competitor, the HTC Vive, can only handle 2160 x 1020 resolution at 90 frames per second. But according to Palmer Luckey, the founder and creator of the Oculus Rift, at least 8K per eye will be needed in the future to obtain realistic VR
"There is a point where you can no longer distinguish individual pixels, but that does not mean that you cannot distinguish greater detail," he said. "You can still see aliasing on lines on a retina display. You can't pick out the pixels, but you can still see the aliasing. Let's say you want to have an image of a piece of hair on the screen. You can't make it real-size... it would still look jaggy and terrible. There's a difference between where you can't see pixels and where you can't make improvements." (Source: arstechnica.com)
One of the challenges facing VR headsets is providing a suitable interface to the gaming system. In addition to the video being sent to the headset, the interface must deliver power to the headset as well as deliver gyroscope feedback to the gaming system. Wireless headsets are not really a good option for an extended session with VR content because the batteries add weight and limit operating time.
Most display interface solutions on the market are limited to 18Gbps which can support a single 4K video stream at 120fps. Additionally, they don’t address the need for moving data from the headset to the VR system and they don’t supply power. However, there is one current display standard that presents a compelling option for VR, superMHL. It delivers up to 108Gbps of video bandwidth to support 8K resolution at 120fps, 40 watts of power, and gyroscopic feedback, all in one light weight cable that won’t interfere with user movement.
Aside from the Oculus Rift ($599 US), and the HTC Vive ($800 US), there are more affordable (<$25 US) headsets like Google Cardboard that use your smartphone as a screen. As these smartphone-based VR games become more popular, kids will want to share their experience with their friends and family. MHL allows the screen of your Android phone to be displayed using an HDMI port on your television. It can deliver also dual 4K streams at 120 Hz which could theoretically be combined into one image using a 3D television or projector.
Despite encountering a few growing pains, the demand for VR continues to grow and the technology to deliver VR will continue to improve. Already dozens of game makers are working on VR-specific releases. But VR is not just for video games. Imagine “house hunting” for a new home from the comfort of your couch using a VR headset to watch a virtual tour of a home for sale. Ever wanted to go someplace you couldn’t afford or didn’t have the time to make the trip? Not a problem with a VR headset and a VR tour guide. The possible experiences are nearly endless. You could go snorkeling without learning to snorkel, or ride shotgun with a Nascar driver, all in immersive video with surround sound. It doesn’t matter who you are, what sport you play, or where you live; Virtual Reality is likely to be a part of YOUR future.