Sometime back we bought one of the early Roku box [$59 – $99] devices and connected it to our (then) new high-def television in the living room. Having access to Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, TWiT TV, Major League Baseball and dozens of other online sources was such a delightful alternative to cable programming that when we were ready to replace the tv in the bedroom we bought one with wi-fi built in along with access to these services. In addition, some of today’s gaming consoles include Internet programming capabilities and Apple’s AppleTV [$99] provides access to content on your desktop as well as on the Internet. Not only do the Internet-based alternatives to broadcast programming open up a whole new world of entertainment, these devices also make it easy for you to share your own storytelling. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- The family gathering photo slideshow. Both Roku and AppleTV can deliver Flickr photos to your tv as beautiful slideshows. I recently set one up for a family dinner we were hosting that combined both recent and old family photos. No one could walk through the living room without stopping to watch and comment. Although AppleTV can combine your iTunes music with iPhotos pics to create a gorgeous production, Roku offers access to photos at Picasa, SmugMug, Shutterfly and Facebook as well as Flickr.
- Home movies. Roku supports Vimeo, Facebook, SmugMug and Picasa videos as well as Plex. AppleTV supports Vimeo, YouTube and movies on your desktop or iPad. Don’t forget that for our storytelling purposes, “movies” can also be enhanced slideshows with text, video and audio included that have been exported to a video format.
- AirPlay. Although AppleTV provides limited access to Internet content other than through iTunes, it’s AirPlay capability combined with your iDevices can generate some pretty amazing productions. Connect your device and your AppleTV to the same wi-fi network and you can stream content from any number of AirPlay-enabled apps. This includes photos, music, videos and even Keynote presentations. Wedding video captured with an iPhone can be immediately replayed via AirPrint. Photos can be shared on the big screen, not a tiny one.
If you already have one of these devices, do some experimenting to see what you can do with your own content. Even something as simple as a photo slideshow can have a dramatic effect at family functions. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how easy it is to get started and how well it will be received by your family.