Nearly everyone has experienced painfully slow buffering while watching a video online, but a new system created by MIT could solve this problem.

MIT researchers from the university's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are just as frustrated with slow Wi-Fi as everyone else, so they've come up with a solution: Minerva.

Meet Minerva

Minerva is a new system developed by the MIT CSAIL team allowing multiple people in one network to stream video with minimal buffering and pixelation, according to a news release from the laboratory.

MIT professor Mohammad Alizadeh, a senior author of a related paper slated for presentation this month, explained that Minerva analyzes how videos being streamed at the same time in the same household are affected by the download speed.

"It then uses that information to provide each video with the best possible visual quality without degrading the experience for others," Alizadeh continued.

Results of testing revealed that Minerva is able to reduce rebuffering time by an average of 47 percent. Furthermore, in up to a third of the time, the system improved video quality significantly. The difference in quality is equivalent to the difference between a 720p television and a 1080p television.

Not only will Minerva improve the web experience of households, but it can also benefit entire regions sharing a network.

How It Works

The authors say that there's no need to change the entire network infrastructure to reap the benefits of MIT's new system. According to Alizadeh, Minerva is actually a drop-in replacement for the standard TCP/IP protocol.

Traditional protocols split a network's bandwidth equally among all the individuals using the network regardless of what each of them are streaming online.

However, as lead author and MIT CSAIL graduate student Vikram Nathan pointed out, this system isn't exactly fair when one person is watching a low quality video of grass growing on their smartphone while another person on the same network is trying to watch a high-speed tennis game on a 4K television. In this case, traditional systems give both users equal bandwidth, even when one clearly needs more than the other for a good streaming experience.

Many streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu divide their limited bandwidth in an unsophisticated manner without considering the video being watched or the buffering the viewer has experienced.

Minerva analyzes the videos being watched to see how much each one can be improved with different levels of the bandwidth. It's basically an eternal "push/pull" among the different videos, so that each one constantly has a fair share of bandwidth.

"This process allows the system to allocate resources to the different videos in a way that is fair to them with respect to their visual quality," Nathan concluded.

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