MIT Researchers Create Impressive Solution for Improved Wi-Fi Stream Buffering

Gone are the days of pixelated images or slow streaming, thanks to a team of MIT experts.
Fabienne Lang

You've probably found yourself staring at your tablet, smartphone, or laptop screen frustratingly waiting for a YouTube or Netflix video to buffer and watching the little colored dial go round and round as the picture is frozen.

It dawns on you that your friend or family member is also using the wi-fi on their device, watching something online too, and you shout out to them to stop so that you can watch your video. 

A frustrating situation.


A team of experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has just found a solution to this prevalent issue. 

What is this system, and how does it work?

The Minerva system, as the team has named it, analyzes videos before they're streamed to see how the quality will be if the videos were displayed at a lower resolution. 

The way Wi-Fi and streaming works is that 'Wi-Fi sharing' distributes the available bandwidth between the number of online users. So if you're trying to watch a high-definition HBO documentary at the same as your kids while they are streaming another funny video, you'll encounter unattractive pixelated views, pauses, and annoyingly slow streaming. 

MIT Researchers Create Impressive Solution for Improved Wi-Fi Stream Buffering
A diagram outlining MIT CSAIL's Minerva protocol. Source: MIT CSAIL 

This is where Minerva steps in. Minerva analyzes all videos, and checks which would benefit from more bandwidth, and which would still be fine with a lower resolution without the quality being lowered. 

The bandwidth is then redistributed accordingly to the different users. Moreover, it will keep readjusting itself as the movies or shows play on, depending on the video content being played. Pretty neat. 

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When applied, Minerva was able to reduce the rebuffering time by almost half, and a third of the time, it created improvements to video playback quality.

This isn't just useful for household Wi-Fi users.

Minerva's system could be shared across whole regions, which would undoubtedly benefit video streaming companies such as Netflix or Hulu, who constantly share video content with a large number of users at once. 

No change in hardware needs to happen, according to the MIT experts. The system can be directly introduced to video providers. 

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