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I feel like we take compression for granted. It’s like the bass player in a band. While the lead guitarist or singer gets decorated with undergarments from the ladies, the unsung bassist grooves in the background, playing the vital role of filling out the low end of the frequency spectrum and blowing your hair back.
Compression technologies and the network infrastructure upon which they function are key to delivering our LOLcats, Nyan Cats, Honeybadgers and Rebecca Blacks, but with all the attention given to terrestrial broadband and 4G, it’s easy for new advances in compression techniques to slip under the radar.
Compression is sexy
Why? Researchers at MIT are working on a new approach to an algorithm that could enhance image, video and other signal compression by up to ten times. It could also reduce the power and bandwidth required for gadgets on cellular networks. Imagine the smartphone in your hand right now downloading data ten times faster, being able to store more data, while at the same time providing better battery life, without you having to do anything.
Associate professor Dina Katabi and professor Piotr Indyk put out a paper detailing a new spin on fast Fourier transform (FFT) math. FFT is a clever technique devised in the 1960s that would take an irregular signal, split it up into constituent frequencies and then assemble them into a new usable signal. Professors Katabi and Indyk’s new approach takes a signal, splits it into smaller segments and isolates key frequencies, assigning them a “weight” to ensure they get priority, while abandoning those frequencies that aren’t needed.
There’s no word on how soon these algorithms could start making our lives better, but as it’s an algorithm rather than a piece of hardware, it could arrive faster than you think.