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MIT developed Wi-Fi technology that could seriously improve Netflix binge watching

Published Aug 19th, 2019 7:31AM EDT
Netflix Streaming
Image: SEDAT SUNA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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Streaming services like Netflix are worthless without an active internet connection, and your binging sessions will suffer some serious interruption whenever there’s no decent Wi-Fi or cellular connection. As much as Netflix and other companies can adapt their stream to your internet speed, that might not be enough to avoid buffering completely, especially on crowded networks. But MIT has a different solution, one that could help reduce the time you spend waiting for your streaming service to load content.

Called Minerva and developed in the labs of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the system analyzes videos before you play them and determines what they need from your current Wi-Fi setup.

That way, the protocol can determine how much bandwidth a video needs. As Engadget explains if there are competing streaming apps running over the same Wi-Fi, Minerva could tell which of them can use lower bandwidth without sacrificing picture quality. The protocol assigns the bandwidth accordingly, looking at the different users on the same network, and then readjusts resources depending on real-time changes.

In real-life tests, MIT’s protocol was able to reduce rebuffering almost by half. Moreover, in nearly a third of cases, it improved video playback quality bumps equivalent from going from 720p to 1080p. Netflix and other streaming services are already able to determine whether your internet connection can handle a video at a certain quality, and downgrade and upgrade the experience accordingly.

But Minerva could serve as a key upgrade over current systems, especially given that there’s no need for changing any hardware these companies use to stream content to millions of people. Instead, Minerva would be just a “drop-in replacement for the standard TCP/IP protocol.”

Like any other project coming from MIT’s CSAIL, there’s no telling when Minerva will be deployed commercially.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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