Google Duo gets improved low-bandwidth video calls, new features

David Matthews

Posts: 370   +70
Staff member

With much of the world moving to video conferencing, Google is trying to boost its Duo application with a few new features. Google Duo is primarily a FaceTime competitor, but the company says it's seen a 8x jump in calls in the recent weeks.

Chief among the new features is support for a new AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) compression algorithm that drastically improves video quality and reliability. This compression technology is particularly useful for low-bandwidth video calls. The GIF below shows the improvements brought by the technology when used on a video call at just 30kbps:

There is a clear difference in quality between the left and right halves of the video comparison. This could prove useful for people with low cellular reception in rural areas or just slower internet connections period.

The AV1 video codec is a new compression algorithm that's more efficient than the VP9 codec that's typically used by streaming services. In fact, Netflix is starting to replace VP9 with AV1. Facebook published a blog post on its engineering site that demonstrates how AV1 beats VP9 and H.264. The AV1 codec is about 30% faster than VP9 and between 46-50% faster than H.264.

Other improvements to Google Duo include the ability to take photos of the video call instead of having to do a screenshot and support for up to 12 call participants at once. Before Duo limited the maximum number of people to just 8. For comparison, Apple's FaceTime can hold up 32 in a single call (as long as everyone has an Apple device that is).

Google says the new updates will be rolling out in the coming weeks.

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Getgone

Posts: 37   +63
Just today tried to use Duo because Whatsapp was making audio stutter. Duo seems to post-process video to make it look smooth. But main issue is that even if you have high bandwidth connection and your hardware allows to push higher quality video, ALL video call programs still use super low bitrate video. Whatsapp, Duo, Skype - they all don't offer better video quality just because.

It's not like anyone asks them to process video on their servers or spend ANY resources on improvement in case if hardware and connection allows.
 
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RedGuard

Posts: 77   +37
Yeah, I was looking yesterday for a high-quality video-chatting app as well.

It seems everyone of them compresses the hell out of the video feed even though we all have 100+ mbps upstream Internet connections and we can easily do multiple 10mbps simultaneously.

Don't know or I haven't found out an app that sends the same video feed to each party in the videochat. So if we are 4 people in a chat, it should easily do 30 mbps upload (for the other 3 people) from my machine directly to their IPs.

If anyone has an idea, let me know.
 
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kmbear

Posts: 7   +13
Yeah, I was looking yesterday for a high-quality video-chatting app as well.

It seems everyone of them compresses the hell out of the video feed even though we all have 100+ mbps upstream Internet connections and we can easily do multiple 10mbps simultaneously.

Don't know or I haven't found out an app that sends the same video feed to each party in the videochat. So if we are 4 people in a chat, it should easily do 30 mbps upload (for the other 3 people) from my machine directly to their IPs.

If anyone has an idea, let me know.
Who has 100mbps upstream? I have over 500mbps down, but only about 25mbps up. And that's actually really good! (sadly...). Most people seem to have an upload capacity up 5-25mbps on their home connections.
On LTE and 5G, you can sometimes get better upload rates, but often the consistency of bandwidth is lower on cellular vs traditional home internet.
 

RedGuard

Posts: 77   +37
Well, we do have gigabits per second connections where the upload is limited to 500 mbps. But that's not the topic here.

I still need a good point-to-point piece of software so we can have our video calls and screen presentations.
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,038   +93
I've been using Duo everyday since late 2019 despite having Whatsapp because:
- Duo better compress your video bitrate when your connection drops (it looks boxy but is not choppy)
- Duo has better framerate than WA when your connection is solid

But on the other hand the Duo app on android doesn't seem to "wake" properly. many times my outgoing calls are not really "connected". it says the other device is offline which it is not.

I've just tried Duo for web and it is not bad. It is not HD so nowhere as crisp as desktop zoom or skype but the interface is pretty easy to use. it's probably not for everyone, but since it comes preinstalled in many new Android phones it might be worth trying.