Creating a ‘Continue Watching’ experience using Project Rome in UWP

By | August 13, 2017

Since the Anniversary update, we got this new RemoteSystem class in UWP, which is part of Project Rome. With this api we can discover and interact with other computers.

One of my first ideas I had when I heart about Project Rome, was creating a ‘Continue Watching on other device’ experience. Image you are streaming on your mobile phone, you come home where you have your Windows 10 laptop or Xbox One and from within the app on your mobile phone you can select ‘continue on Xbox’. The app opens on your Xbox and starts streaming your asset right where you left off.

With the RemoteSystem-class this is a feature which is super easy to implement, and might give users a real ‘wow’-experience.

The first part of this post will give some additional information about the app itself and using url protocol activation. If you are already familiar with this, or you are only interested in the ‘new’ stuff, you might want to skip this and go straight ahead to ‘Using RemoteSystem’.

A simple video streaming app

First, we need a simple video streaming app. I’m not going into too much detail here. The app just shows a list of assets the user can stream and of course also a player that streams the chosen asset. For this app I’ve used the Microsoft Player Framework, the Adaptive Streaming Plugin and Smooth Streaming. The assets in this app, are smooth streaming assets which are publicly available for testing purposes (people who have built streaming apps, will certainly recognize them 🙂 ) . We are keeping it simple here, so no DRM is used in this demo.
Note: if you want to try out this demo yourself, make sure you have installed the following extensions in Visual Studio: ‘Microsoft Player Framework’ and ‘Microsoft Universal Smooth Streaming Client SDK’.

The UI of our app is nothing really special, just a ListView that displays the assets we can stream and the player itself:

And this is what the ViewModel looks like:

The properties Source, CurrentPosition and StartPosition are bound to the Player. Because the AutoPlay property on the Player control is set to True, the player will automatically start to stream whenever the Source property changes.
The SelectedVideo property is bound to the SelectedItem property on the ListView. So whenever a user selects an item in the ListView, the SelectedVideo property on the ViewModel will be set and the Source property on the ViewModel will be set to the source of the selected video.

Let’s discuss the Init method in few seconds.

URL Protocol : Protocol activation

In the manifest file of our UWP app, we are going to add a Protocol declaration. With a protocol declaration, we can associate a particular protocol (url) with our app. In this demo I’m naming it ‘myvideoapp’.

protocol declaration

This means that we, or any other app, can start our video streaming app by calling this protocol. The simplest way to see this in action is by going to Edge and type the protocol in your navigation bar: myvideoapp:// . Our UWP will start once we press enter. As this protocol is just a URL, we can pass in additional parameters if we want.
In order to make this work, we also must override the OnActivated method in our App class. This is the method that will get called whenever the app is being activated through the URL protocol. In our case, we are going to do more or less the same as in the OnLaunched method, but at the end, we are calling the Init method on our ViewModel, passing in the Url that was used to active our app:

In the Init method, we can now parse this url and load the view accordingly. The signature of the url in our app can have one or two parameters: video (which points to the video we want to starts streaming) and position (which indicates in seconds at what position we want to start streaming our asset).

Once this is all in place, we could start our app by just going to Edge and type the following in the navigation bar: myvideoapp://?video=bigbugbunny&position=200 . The app should launch and start Big Bug Bunny at position 200 (seconds from the start).

And this was actually the ‘hard’ part. And there is nothing ‘new’ in here: protocol activation already exists since Windows 8.

Now, we are going to take it one small step further…

Using RemoteSystem

This is the ‘new’ part. At this moment we can launch our app by using a url. The next thing we would like to do, is trigger this url on a particular device (for example your mobile phone) and start the app on an other device (for example your pc) passing in the asset that needs to start playing and at what position it should start.

We can use the static CreateWatcher method on the RemoteSystem class in order to create a watcher. This watcher will fire up events whenever it finds a remote system we can connect to. It also fires updated and removed events to indicate if an already known system is updated or removed. But before we do that, we must make sure we are allowed to create such a watcher. This can be done by calling the RequestAccessAsync method on the RemoteSystem class. If we would, for example, forget to specify the ‘Remote System’ Capability in the app’s manifest, this method will return RemoteSystemAccessStatus.DeniedBySystem.

On my ViewModel I’m going to keep a list of RemoteSystems. This list will be bound to a Combox which the user can use to select the device on which he/she want to continue watching.

Finally, we only need to add a button on my screen that the user can click on in order to continue watching the asset on the chosen device. In the OnContinueWatching method that is bound to the click event of this button, we just need to call the static LaunchUriAsync method on the RemoteLauncher class, passing in the RemoteSystem on which we want to launch the url, as well as our protocol url:

And that’s really all it takes to do this kind of ‘magic’. Easy, isn’t it? And this is just one simple example of what you could do with these RemoteSystems. Hope this post could inspire you to also do something creative with it!

You can find this example on my GitHub.

Links

Project Rome

Remote Systems sample UWP

 

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