We have all been there — pressing the space bar furiously on the computer or the laptop and hurling curses at the smart TV for none of its fault, because despite having an internet speed of 10 MBPS or even 50-100 MBPS these days, sometimes it is not enough. The video paused to buffer just when you were about to learn who the lady with the broken neck is in The Haunting of Hill House. But, what if there was a service that ensured no video content ever had to be buffered again? Without one being forced to shell out a couple hundred bucks more every month. Dr Gopichand Katragadda and his ex-colleagues at Tata Group — Ganesh Suryanarayanan and Aditi Olemann — ventured out to find a solution to the same problem.
The video-on-demand industry with a potential of growing to $87 billion by the end of 2020 is diseased with low internet bandwidth in the country. Whereas, many may not have the wherewithal to spend Rs.1,000 every month on high-speed connections. But the internet problem is too large for a start-up to solve. So, in February 2019, Katragadda and team thought: why not reduce the bandwidth required to deliver content? Unlike YouTube, which reduces quality and resolution of videos under poor bandwidth, Myelin preserves content quality using artificial intelligence, or AI. It plugs into your streaming service’s app as an application programming interface (API). “Our technology saves 40% of the bandwidth but delivers the same quality and resolution,” says Katragadda. Here’s how.
The team trained the AI model through thousands of hours of video content, frame-by-frame, so that their algorithms could detect how pixels behave on the screen. For example, a pixel is located in a region of uniform colour needs to be morphed in a certain way. In a textured environment (think, a bark of a tree), pixels behave differently. Once, the nature of the pixels is understood, the AI engine can mimic higher-quality content with a regular- or even low-quality input. You could watch 1080p video by streaming 720p-level data. But there is a limit to this. You cannot turn a 180p or even 360p feed into digital high definition outputs.
The other benefit is energy efficiency. Suppose your device uses 20% of its battery to run an episode of your favourite series at 720p. The same 40-minute episode might devour 30-40% battery in 1080p resolution. Katragadda claims that Myelin’s solution can deliver 1080p quality content while consuming 21-22% battery. And this benefits the data centers as well, since the files processed at the source are smaller in size, thus reducing cooling requirements.
In January 2020, the team raised a seed round of $1 million. Of this $500,000 came from Endiya Partners. They recently onboarded Kris Gopalakrishnan, chairman, Axilor Ventures and co-founder Infosys, as an angel investor. Myelin clocked Rs.10 million in FY20 and is expecting to double that this fiscal as Katragadda said that the SaaS company will go live with ‘India’s top-three OTT players’ by the end of this year.