WeKast sends your presentations to TV's wirelessly
By Jim Bray
Think of it more like a strongest link, rather than the "wekast" one.
WeKast is a new hardware and software solution for people who make presentations on the go, whether in corporate boardrooms or wherever. It's a way to leave the cables at home and just carry along with you your smart device and the little WeKast dongle.
And it appears to work, if my rather quick and limited tests of the system are any indication.
Here's how the company positions the product on its Kickstarter page, (edited for spelling and grammar):
"We have all been there. You have an awesome presentation, you're dressed to kill and then the technology fails. The Wi-Fi is down, you have the wrong plug or it is plain taking forever. Now, you're stressed and the clients that you are supposed to impress are…staring at their watches, or worse -- glaring at you. Not a good way to make a first impression. Even if you get it to work - you've lost your edge."
I've certainly been there, though that was in a different life. Time was you had to bring your laptop computer with you, or hope they'll have one at the venue and that it's not only hooked up correctly but compatible with your stuff. But WeKast lets you leave your laptop at home (well, keep it in your briefcase so you can take the orders you hope to snag!) and only show up with your WeKast dongle and the smart device on which your presentation has been stored.
I was privileged to try a preproduction version of the system and it worked fine once I got it figured out (my initial issues came from operator error, and doesn't that just figure?). The final version will be sleeker, in that they'll say it'll have an internal power supply and won't require the adapters the prototype came with - but even with the extra stuff it wasn't particularly onerous to use. You should be able to leave the prototype's USB power cord at home with the final version as well, and just sally forth with the dongle and your smart device.
Obviously, you'll need access to a TV of some sort at the venue, but these are available widely these days. Oh, the TV needs a free HDMI input (or one you can free up) but just about every TV made in the past 10 years or so will have at least one HDMI port. In lieu of an HDMI port you can use VGA, which opens up a whole world of older computer monitors for you to exploit.
Here's the scenario by which you can not only make your presentation, but blow away your audience with your nifty methodology: you just march in, plug the WeKast dongle into the TV's HDMI port, fire it up, wait for the WeKast logo on the screen, then fire up the app on your smart device and - yep, Bob's your uncle!
I mentioned the WeKast to a friend of mine who used to make such presentations all the time in the course of his daily business and he thought it was a great idea. He said it wouldn't change him taking his laptop to the sessions (for note taking or, even better, order taking, or whatever) but that it would certainly make the presentation process itself easier. One of the things he cited was the lack of standardization at the venues - you often don't know going in what type of equipment is there, so you either pack a fecal load of stuff with you, or bring the little WeKast. Seems like an easy choice.
Naturally, you have to ensure you have enough storage space on your smart device. If you have an Apple product this could be problematic, but Android lets you add storage. Since WeKast uses a proprietary software protocol that converts files into a "mobile optimized format" to save storage space, it may not be an issue anyway, depending on your device and your presentation.
WeKast uses a closed WIFI network to communicate between the smartphone app and the dongle, so you don't need to worry about piggybacking onto the venue's network - something some places are pretty careful about allowing for security (or paranoia) reasons.
The final design of the dongle will have a built in battery, cutting one more cord (the prototype had an external battery and worked via USB power as well), and won't require adapters for HDMI or VGA. It will be capable of working with Dropbox and Google Drive to load files inside the app, and there'll be a WeKast Engage feature for sharing live slides, collecting feedback in real time and allowing for easy follow up with the folks onto whom you're inflicting the presentation. Sounds like maybe you'll be able to leave the laptop at home, too.
It took about five minutes for my phone to download my WeKast test presentation, which was graphics heavy. That isn't something you'll want to do while your captive audience is fidgeting in its collective seats, so you should remember to do this before you head out - which is no big deal.
Right now, WeKast supports only ppt and pptx (PowerPoint) files but the company says it's working on integrating other file formats, such as Acrobat, Word, Excel, Keynote, Prezi etc.
The company says WeKast supports any video and its audio that's embedded into your PowerPoint. It also supports a variety of video resolutions and automatically scales the image to fit the destination screen at a resolution up to 1080p. If your presentation isn't in the 16x9 aspect ratio of most TV's today, it'll letterbox or "keyhole" it for you.
WeKast's app is compatible with all iPhone and Androids versions from 4.2 and on. There's no Mac version of the plug in yet, but it's supposed to be coming.
This is a product I'd never imagined a need for, working as I do in my ivory basement, but now that I've tried it and thought about it - and asked people for whom it's aimed - I can see this being a very handy tool. I wish there'd been such a product when I was using PowerPoint presentations during the writing classes I taught at the local Polytechnic. Figures.
WeKast will be available next January for $149 USD. Retail outlets haven't been settled yet, but I'm sure you'll be able to find info on them from the company's website. You'll probably be able to purchase them there, too.
Speaking of using your smart device, back in March I reviewed the Blumoo, a hardware/app universal remote control solution that's one of the best I've used. It lets you use your smart device to send the codes from your home theatre remotes to its receiving unit, which in turn operates your stuff.
Well, I've discovered a new feature that impresses me so much I have to tell you about it.
My wife and I are heading out on vacation in a couple of weeks and a good friend is going to stay at Chateau Bray to take care of our plethora of pussycats. Since I have as many remotes down there as I have fingers and toes (well, nearly), I wanted to make things as simple for him as possible; therefore, I wanted to download the Blumoo app to his Android tablet so he could ignore the physical remotes.
The plan was for me to borrow his tablet so I could configure the Blumoo on it - so one day, when we were having an important business meeting in the local watering hole we frequent far too frequently, I downloaded and installed the app. Since Murphy's Law has yet to be repealed, however, the app wouldn't do anything unless it could communicate with the base unit at home!
No big deal, because I could take the tablet home and configure it there. So a week or so ago my friend came up on a Sunday and we went down to the home theatre to do the dirty deed. I figured I'd have to do all the same stuff (adding devices, editing functions, adding macros, etc.) I did for my iPad Air.
But no! Much to my surprise and delight, when we fired up the app on his tablet and Bluetoothed over to the base unit all of my equipment and my edits were there already! It was wonderful!
I still found some things to change (stuff I'd either done wrong the first time, if you can imagine such a scenario, or wanted to do differently) so I made the changes on my iPad and a short time later they showed up on his Android. It was painless and as effortless as could be. That's exactly how it should be, but how often does that actually happen in real life?
I'm very impressed.
Copyright 2016 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
We welcome your comments!