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Kim Hart Mar 2, 2017
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Netflix turns to AI to help mobile users enjoy better video

Manu Fernandez / AP

Netflix has found a new use for artificial intelligence: keeping your online videos from buffering, Quartz reports from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That may sound superficial, but it will have big implications for data use.

The usual method for encoding online video compresses it uniformly for a specific internet speed. Videos for low-bandwidth connections are more compressed, leading to grainy images. Netflix has found a way to match the compression level to the scene's content, meaning an action scene gets more bandwidth than a low-movement scene.

The wireless impact: The new trick, called Dynamic Optimizer, is aimed at viewers who are increasingly using their mobile devices to view video, especially in emerging markets like India, Japan and South Korea.

Why it matters: The improved compression algorithms will use less capacity on carriers' networks. Netflix is one of the largest drivers of internet traffic and eats up an enormous amount of bandwidth, so freeing some of that up will improve Netflix's historically tense relationship with the companies it relies on to reach consumers.