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"Streamlining" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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A new technology developed by researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University may make spotty streaming and data-hogging downloads a thing of the past.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

(Sound effect: jet whoosh) Jet stream

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(Sound effect: music cuts in and out) You're streaming a video, and it freezes--the only thing moving on your screen is--wait for it--the famed spinning icon. "Buffering, buffering." You're wireless signal has weakened; you're in (Sound effect: horror chord) the buffer zone. Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University believe we have better things to do than suffer the buffer. So they've developed a new technology called stream loading. It uses a video format that splits the video into two layers: A 'base' layer that contains a coarse representation of the video and an 'enhancement' layer with all the fine-grain details to complete the video.

In traditional streaming, all the information is downloaded just seconds ahead of time. Depending on wireless signal strength and traffic on the network, it can get behind and cause delays. Stream loading will allow users to pre-download the video detail layer from a stronger wireless signal, like at home. When it comes time to watch the video you then have to stream only the base layer.

(Sound effect: background communications sounds) The developers believe putting this patent-pending system into widespread use could remove as much as 75 percent of the streaming content from increasingly overloaded cellular wireless networks, and cut down on data-usage charges for consumers sound like a stream come true.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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