Google-Backed 4K UHD Compression Tech 'AV1' Now Available

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A new 4K UHD-compatible video compression technology is officially ready for implementation, coming in the form of the AV1 specification. In recent years, the industry has relied on technologies such as HEVC and VP9 to compress videos for online platforms. For some time now, companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix have been hard at work – as part of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) – on a new, royalty-free compression software that would reduce the size of videos even further without sacrificing quality.

The first version of AV1 is now ready to be implemented, with streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube set to be some of the first to take advantage of the tech. By implementing it, streaming videos will now save anywhere between 30- and 40-percent of the data previously required, all while being able to offer 4K UHD videos. This could prove to be beneficial for technologies such as virtual reality which require extremely detailed content on the go, while also incentivizing content creators to up the quality of their videos due to the fact that higher resolutions will be much more accessible to consumers through popular streaming sites. In addition to consumers, the new AV1 technology will also provide significant benefits to video platforms, its creators believe. The older HEVC software came with hefty royalty fees, while the newer alternative has been developed as an open-source competitor, meaning no royalties are attached to it at all. AV1 will not be limited to streaming videos, as the new technology can be implemented across a wide variety of use cases such as video calls or screen sharing and should eventually be accessible via a number of browsers, smartphones, computers, and TVs, thus likely providing significant royalty savings across the technology industry.

For now, the adoption of the solution will be gradual, with browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox set to take advantage of it by the end of 2019. For smartphones, the technology will reach platforms starting with 2020. As for other implementations, no specific timeframes have been announced. The new AV1 codec has a long way to go before it can overtake the current market leader HEVC. However, considering the group behind the new AV1 software controls some of the biggest platforms and products on the market, the rate at which the technology is adopted will likely be relatively high.