Ahhh, the holidays. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and also the best time to show your family what your gadgets can do. This year, I plan to delight my folks with the wonders of Google’s Chromecast. First, by introducing them to the plethora of features it’s capable of, and then, by keeping them entertained with it. Here are some of the ways you can use Google's affordable gadget to help bring holiday cheer to your home.
California is experiencing a massive drought, and because it’s been so dry out, we’ve been barred from burning wood in the fireplace.
Thankfully, there’s Fire Place HD, which imitates the snap snap, crackle, and pop of a real life fireplace without all the harmful smoke polluting the air through the chimney. I don’t have to worry about cleaning up the ashes, either.
For my Christmas dinner party this year, I plan to display all the photos we’ve taken this year on our TV so that we can reminisce about the year we’ve had. I like to use AllCast to display photos stored on my smartphone, though DayFrame is also a good choice if you want to tap into an album on one of your social networks.You can also use the Google Cast extension in Google Chrome to mirror any webpage full of your photos to the big screen. Unfortunately, Google Photos doesn’t offer a Chromecast-compatible slideshow option just yet.
Keep track of Santa
Here’s a new tradition to add to your list: Keep tabs on Santa with Google’s Santa Tracker. As its name suggests, the app helps you track Santa beginning December 24.
With the Chromecast, I plan to follow Santa on the big screen as he makes his way around the globe delivering presents to every good little boy and girl. Until Christmas Eve, however, the Chromecast-compatible part of the app merely counts down the hours until Santa takes off from the North Pole.
Liven things up with a game
Family can be boring, but the Chromecast can help liven things up. It’s like a game console without all the painstaking setup.
There are a ton of games in the Google Play Store with multiplayer support for your television set. Scrabble Blitz, for instance, is a think-as-fast-as-you-can word game that you can play against the computer or another family member with an Android device. Other well-known multiplayer games include Wheel of Fortune and Monopoly, which boasts features especially designed for use with the Chromecast. I plan on playing through Wheel of Fortune with my folks, since we grew up watching the game show during dinnertime.
Use YouTube to inspire a little more spirit
There’s no better black hole to fall into than a YouTube one, especially on Christmas day when all my family and friends are all slightly inebriated—er, I mean, happy and jolly.
The YouTube integration with Chromecast is nearly flawless. All you have to do is navigate to the video you want to watch on your mobile device, and then press the Cast button to push the video to the big screen.
If you’re stuck on where to start your holiday YouTube adventure, consider kicking things off with a video of the best Christmas light displays, which will likely make you feel bad for skimping on the effort this year. If you’re in a bind for Christmas music, YouTube also offers plenty of holiday playlists, like this one.
Or, if you’d rather just chill out on the couch with a drink in hand, you can do so along with Nick Offerman’s Yule Log, where all he does is sit in an armchair and drink whiskey for 45 minutes. It is truly the best.
By the end of the holiday night, I’m bound to want to try something wild. Karaoke with the Chromecast is always a splendid idea, if only to hear how badly each of my family members sing.
Unfortunately, there aren’t too many karaoke apps that are compatible with the Chromecast, and the few that are compatible feature a limited library of songs. The best app I’ve found is KaraokeCast. It doesn’t do any of the heavy lifting that a regular karaoke machine would, like amplifying your voice, but it does allow you to queue up karaoke videos from YouTube.
Keep in mind that since the karaoke versions of popular songs are typically copyrighted, some melodies might not be as accurate as you like.
Classic holiday movies on repeat
If all else fails, or my family ends up not being interested in doing anything fancy with the Chromecast, I plan to download Netflix and watch its massive selection of Christmas movies. I hope no one minds if I put Love Actually on repeat.