Using Android to Remotely Control Media Playback

It’s interesting to see how mobile devices can be used for the oddest little tasks.  My Android phone can do a lot.  It can run all sorts of network apps.  And the latest app I’ve picked up is a remote control tool for the VideoLAN VLC media player.

When you think about it, there isn’t a lot of “never been done before” tools in this kind of application.  But the folks at VideoLAN have really assembled an innovative package.

An http server is installed on the machine that you want to control. The server accepts incoming web connections and processes these requests as control strings to manage the operation of a VLC media player on the target computer.  The server provides content listing and content playback controls via http packets.

A TCP/IP control program on your phone communicates with the web server on your computer.  The mobile control program has a nice little GUI that displays the content and allows you to manage the server.

The PC-based server can either send the content to a display attached to your system or the server can stream the ontent to your phone.  And I was incredibly surprised at the picture quality when it was streamed to the phone.  I wish I could share a picture with you, but ShootMe didn’t get any good screen captures of the Android-based VLC player.  I’ll have to try and get these at a later time. But trust me when I say that the streaming quality is good.

So what did this experiment prove?

First, the open nature of the platform breeds this kind of innovative tinkering.  People can fiddle and tweak things as much as they like.  And you don’t have to go through the app police to get a permit in order to test, to distribute and to operate apps.

Second, the size of the Android developer community is huge.  The sheer enormity of the developer base is leading to some very cool innovations.

Finally, it’s great to have lots of choices.  But it can get crowded in any given application category.    There needs to be a good method for recommendations and curation.  The Amazon philosophy of 4/5 star customer ratings is an excellent way to weed through enormous piles of similarly featured tools.

Is this tool cool?  It most certainly is cool.  Is it an essential tool for home media center management?  It most assuredly is not essential.  But sometimes cool is enough – at least for tonight.






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One Comment on “Using Android to Remotely Control Media Playback”

  1. mac Says:

    way cool, but even more cool is to morph over to home automation control using the same concepts, not seen much in that arena yet


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