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Stadia set to gain AV1 codec support, likely to help reduce data usage

A recent presentation featuring Google has outlined that Stadia is set to gain support for a new video codec, AV1, which should help improve quality and reduce data usage.

One of the valid complaints of Google Stadia, and really game streaming in general, is that it uses up a significant amount of data, which comes with a number of setbacks. For one, it means that playing in high resolution requires more bandwidth than is available in many American households. Beyond that, most mobile carriers — and even some home internet providers — place limits on how much data you can use each month, which game streaming will gladly chew through.

One solution to this issue is to find a way to better compress the video data, particularly in a way that can still be quickly decompressed by your device. As of now, Stadia uses Google’s own VP9 codec where possible, to better squeeze things in, as many other Google apps do.

Looking ahead, though, AOMedia Video 1, better known as AV1, launched in 2018 as an open successor to VP9, and has since then been supported by Android, Chrome, and YouTube. More recently, Google Duo gained support for AV1 on Android and iOS, which Google touted as having 30% better performance for those on low-bandwidth connections.

Back in September, Google — more specifically Matt Frost, a Director of Project Management — joined other members of the Alliance for Open Media, the consortium responsible for AV1’s development, for a panel at IBC 2020 to share how their apps have grown into using AV1 and their plans for the future. As spotted by members of the Stadia subreddit, the company’s main slide for the presentation showed that the AV1 codec is “coming soon” to Stadia, along with other Google apps like Meet, Photos, and Play Movies (now known as Google TV).

Unfortunately, during the remainder of the panel, Frost had no additional details to share about how Stadia or the other apps would be making use of the newer codec. In the case of Meet, the use case of AV1 offering a better experience on low bandwidth seems obvious, following the example set by Google Duo.

As for Stadia, it’s unknown whether Google plans for AV1 to fully replace VP9 in the near future or, as with Duo, simply be used to improve the experience on mobile data. For the time being, Stadia on mobile data, which recently graduated from “experimental,” is restricted to an even lower quality than the base option of 720p that’s offered while on WiFi.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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