MHL Blog

The Content Revolution and What It Means for superMHL

MHL, LLC Staff
June 20, 2016

Cutting The Cord

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”.

BlueMouse

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.

LandscapePortrait

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:

MakeAList

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.

MenuBar

Click “Save As” and then rename it something you can recognize

SaveAs

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.

MHL Workstation

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

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!

Location:
Shanghai New International Expo Centre (SNIEC) in Shanghai, China
永泰电子(东莞)有限公司Booth

Hall N2 - 2084

Show Dates:

May 11–13, 2016

Show times:

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 info@mhltech.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

MHL Gaming Use Case Image

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.

Mobile Gaming Gets up and Goes Big

Gordon Hands – President, MHL Consortium
March 15, 2016

As a parent of teen and pre-teen kids, I know firsthand that mobile gaming is on the rise.  I also know that with this growth there are concerns that I’m sure I share with many other parents:   How do I get my kids to look up from their devices and interact with others?  How do I encourage my kids to get more exercise?

To foster more interaction, I have been encouraging my kids to share what they are playing on the TV.  Using the MHL technology found in their smartphones, my children can display their games on our TV.  This totally changes the dynamic of the game from being an individual experience to one that can be shared with others.  Laughter and screams of “Turn right! Go faster! Look out for that guy on the left!” can be heard throughout my house. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, dad gets to play too.  While playing games on a big screen has been a great way to let me and my kids spend some leisure time together, it has also given my kids the knowledge that their dad’s gaming skills will never be a threat to theirs.

MHL Gaming Use Case Image

For those not familiar with MHL, it provides a method for mobile devices that support it to mirror their screens to a TV or other display (and with an installed base for MHL-enabled devices approaching one billion, chances are good you have access to an MHL-capable device).  Its near instant response overcomes the problems with lag and configuration headaches that plague many wireless streaming technologies.  And as a bonus it charges your phone while you play, making extended gaming sessions possible (although as a parent I am not 100 percent sure I like that feature.)

FITFLAP Screenshot Here

Over the last couple of years the developers of console-based systems have been releasing products that encourage movement during gaming, just look at many of the titles released for Wii and Xbox Kinect. The good news for parents of today’s digital kids is that innovative game developers are bringing movement-based gaming technology to mobile platforms.  At CES we showcased FITFLAP developed by Breakfirst that does just this.  The game uses the front camera of a mobile device to capture the motion of the player and use it as input to the game.  In FITFLAP, players flap their arms to control the height of a bird flying through an obstacle course.  Having tried it myself I can say its great fun and awesome exercise.  This video shows it in action.  It you want to try it for yourself the game is downloadable for free from Google Play.

Emerging 8K TV Ecosystem

Gordon Hands – President, MHL Consortium

February 26, 2016

At CES this past January, we saw what I believe were the first concrete signs of an 8K TV ecosystem.  They included the demonstration of a number of production ready 8K TVs from companies such as Changhong, Hisense, LG, Samsung and others.  At the MHL Consortium booth we were pleased to demonstrate the LG 8K SUPER UHD TV with video connectivity enabled by superMHL. You can check out a short video here.  The industry’s drive to 8K is fueled by a desire to increase the immersive experience for viewers that is perhaps best articulated by Japanese broadcaster NHK.  You can check out their roadmap here.

LG 8K in  MHL booth

The immersive nature of a TV image is influenced by many variables including the screen resolution, the number of bits used to represent color, the color representation used and the frame rate.  Perhaps most immediately noticeable is the resolution of the screen.  By increasing the resolution of the screen, viewers can sit closer to the screen before they see the pixels.  This leads to the screen occupying a larger amount of the viewer’s field of view.  With 1080p (2K) displays, the optimum viewing distance is 3x the display height.  At this distance the screen occupies 30 degrees of the viewer’s field of view.  With 8K the optimal distance is reduced to 0.75 which represents 100 degrees of the viewer’s field of view.

8K Viewing Angle

I have been asked by many people about the timeframe for 8K TVs.  For me the best way to think about this is to compare 8K with 4K.  About six years ago we saw multiple manufacturers demonstrating their initial production-ready 4K TVs and the content was nonexistent.  Today prices are close to $500 and consumers can choose from a variety of streaming and disk-based content.  In much the same way I expect affordability of 8K TVs and availability of content to dramatically improve over the next few years. 

The challenge for today’s digital video interface technologies is that they are already stretched to capacity by the requirements of 4K.  To solve this problem the MHL Consortium developed the superMHL interface standard which was released in January 2015. By utilizing a connector engineered using today’s technology this standard has the capability to support the requirements of today’s 8K displays and has the capacity for expansion as display technology continues to evolve.  Learn more at http://www.mhltech.org/technology.aspx