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Google Duo is about to get a lot better for users with slower connections


Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many personal and work interactions have been thrust into the virtual sphere. Video calling has become the norm for many, which can be a problem for those on weaker broadband connections. Google is hoping to address the issue with its new speech codec that is built to offer higher-quality audio at a lower bitrate, which should make communicating with friends and loved ones on apps like Google Duo much better.

The technology is called Lyra (no it doesn’t come with a shapeshifting counterpart named Pantalaimon). This new codec uses advancements in machine learning to improve upon existing techniques, allowing speech to be reproduced using fewer data.

Lyra harnesses the power of these new natural-sounding generative models to maintain the low bitrate of parametric codecs while achieving high quality, on par with state-of-the-art waveform codecs used in most streaming and communication platforms today.

The Google AI blog states that the technology was trained using over 70 different languages to ensure fairness and universal access. Lyra is also designed to operate at just 3kbps while offering better speech reproduction than higher bitrate codecs, a comparison you can find on the blog post. This would ensure that the technology can be utilized in places with less robust connections, giving anyone access to high-quality video calls on Google Duo without using up too much data.

With Lyra rolling out on the back-end, better video calls will be available on even the best cheap Android phones. Google hopes that the social impacts of the technology can reach far and wide, expanding to emerging markets and improving on other audio forms like music. With music streaming platforms like Spotify expanding to more global markets, this technology could one day improve streaming quality for millions.

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