Duke University, Microsoft researchers cut game streaming bandwidth by over 80%

Sean Michael

Halo Spartan Assault

It’s the first day of your data cycle on your mobile phone. You arrive at home and just want to relax so you play some games on your mobile device. After just a little bit of gaming you get a notification “data usage alert.” You’ve accidentally used your entire month’s worth of data allowance in only a few hours because in your distracted and tired state you’ve forgot to switch your phone to Wi-Fi. While that problem will still be a possibility in the future, Duke University and Microsoft Research are working to make it less of a concern by lowering the bandwidth required to play online games.

The tool is called “Kahawai” and it reduces the bandwidth online gaming uses by about 83%. That’s a massive amount of data savings and will have benefits even when consumers are playing on a Wi-Fi connection because it won’t use as much of their Wi-Fi network’s speed. The way Kahawai accomplishes this is by “collaborative rendering.” Instead of having input and computations all done via a remote server, the current setup, some of the computing is done on the device itself.

Duke University’s post outlines this process in further detail “The task of quickly generating fine-grained details — such as subtle changes in texture and shading at speeds of 60 frames per second — is still left to the remote server. But collaborative rendering lets the mobile device generate a rough sketch of each frame, or a few high-detail sketches of select frames, while the remote server fills in the gaps.” The video below compares both methods.

To make sure there was no lag or loss of visual clarity they had “50 hardcore gamers” try it out. They earned similar scores to the traditional way of gaming using exclusively remote servers to do computations.