Wireless Systems Design

Streaming Video Smooths Itself Out

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Industry members have consistently picked streaming video as the "killer app" for future handsets. Like most new applications, however, its market success is dependent on users having a positive experience. Luckily, MediaQ, Inc. (www.mediaq.com) and PacketVideo Corp. (www.packetvideo.com) forged an agreement to enrich the multimedia experience for end users by enhancing MPEG-4 video performance on mobile devices.

Using MediaQ's application programming interfaces (APIs), Packet-Video was able to take full advantage of MediaQ's dedicated hardware engine. It was then able to optimize its standards-compliant, MPEG-4 video-decoding software known as pvPlayer. Thanks to this agreement, OEMs can greatly improve video performance without hardware acceleration. All they have to do is run the optimized pvPlayer software on MediaQ's video-enabled products, including the MQ-1168 multimedia platform controllers.

Initial tests showed that the optimized pvPlayer—running on MediaQ's MQ-1168 accelerated video decoding—runs up to three times faster than CPU-only handheld hardware solutions. Thanks to these performance improvements, end users can enjoy smoother MPEG-4 video streaming and playback of both branded and user-generated content (see figure).

On the heels of this announcement, MediaQ released its newest multimedia platform controller. The MQ-1188 boasts twice the clock rate of earlier MediaQ chips. As a result, it boosts the performance of graphics functions like video playback and color-image capturing and rendering. The controller houses a built-in interface to popular baseband processors for wireless connectivity, along with integrated secure-digital-I/O (SDIO) controllers for data storage and peripherals.

Because it runs at 66 MHz, the MQ-1188 controller should help OEMs design and deliver smart mobile devices that are capable of handling new multimedia applications and services. The embedded frame buffer and 64-b 2D graphics engine will enhance game playing and other graphics-intensive applications. In addition, the SDIO controller flaunts a high bandwidth of 12 MBps. As a result, the controller offers expandability and connectivity options using both memory cards and card-based peripherals. The MQ-1188 also is designed for ultra-low power consumption.

For entertainment purposes, this controller strongly supports video capture and playback. A video stream can be input from either the central-processing-unit host interface or the CCIR656-compliant Video Input port. Virtually any CMOS or CCD camera can be attached or integrated into that port.

A video-processing engine handles video capture and rendering. That engine also provides post-processing support for MPEG-4 or camera video streams. With help from image interpolation algorithms, the video can be streamed at low resolution for full-screen playback without significant loss of image quality. This feature provides high-quality video-playback functionality, while alleviating compute and memory-access overheads from the host CPU.

The recent work of MediaQ and PacketVideo reveals how much the industry is still working to bring streaming video to the wireless market. Sure, this application was supposed to be in the hands of the end user by now. But it's survived some bumps just like the rest of the market. Now it's smoothing itself out, thanks to some well-thought-out research and development. It is preparing to provide a good user experience. Soon, streaming video may be the darling of the wireless-handset world after all.

TAGS: Mobile
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