Google promises streaming video will be sharper and less of a data hog

by Brandon Russell | September 1, 2015

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Cutting the cord is easier than ever thanks to services such as Netflix, HBO Now and Amazon’s Prime Instant Video. The problem, however, is setting aside the bandwidth necessary to pump that content to your smartphone and TV, especially when said content is being offered in higher resolutions. Luckily, Google is creating a new compression codec, known as VP10, that will make delivering high resolution content much more efficient.

Google currently offers the VP9 format, which claims to use half the bandwidth needed to deliver the same quality as the popular H.264 format. The new VP10 codec promises to half its old standard, while also increasingly in clarity, color accuracy, and better dynamic range. That’s a pretty big jump if you ask me. Unfortunately, the new codec shouldn’t be widely available for another couple of years.

One of the main obstacles will be getting companies to adopt its technology. Even if/when Google releases its new codec, it will be difficult for the search giant to go up against the more popular H.264, which is due for an upgrade to HEVC (or H.265). Google will no doubt want its tech to become the industry standard, as it streams video every day through its YouTube platform. Using VP10 could mean higher resolution video without using all your bandwidth—and without losing out on quality either.

While offering VP10 on a computer should be easy, it won’t be such a cake walk on mobile phones; the technology would need to be built directly into the processor. Samsung’s Exynos 7420 will support the upcoming VP10 technology, while chips from MediaTek, NVIDIA and Broadcom will support VP9. Google’s Jani Huoponen, Google product manager in charge of VP9 hardware, said “almost all” 4K TVs already have VP9 hardware.

YouTube began streaming VP9 content back in 2013, so there’s an incentive there for companies to adopt the compression tech when VP10 rolls around. As it stands, however, VP9 isn’t built into Microsoft’s Windows PCs, or Apple chips that come inside the iPad and iPhone. That means H.264 and HEVC had a huge leg up, though Google could come swooping in thanks to some issues regarding how much a company should pay to use the technology.

As a demonstration of its technology, Google said YouTube alone delivered over 25 billion hours of VP9 video in 2014—and it did so with content that was more detailed and higher resolution than H.264.

CNET


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...