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CES Report: Fraunhofer Hears Good News in MPEG DASH Spec

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Perhaps this week or next, DASH-264, the long-awaited MPEG DASH interoperability specification will go public. This is the needed document that will at last spell out codecs and DRM schemes for DASH. Fraunhofer, now showing in the South Hall of International CES, is a member of the DASH industry forum (DASH-IF), and is giving visitors an audio sample of what they can expect.

Stereo audio in DASH will use the HE-AAC codec, an MPEG standard developed by multiple companies. For multichannel audio, however, the spec will offer three possible solutions: DTS-HD, one from the Dolby family, and HE-AAC multichannel, Fraunhofer's baby.

The reason Fraunhofer is feeling so good about this is that Google recently upgraded the HE-AAC version used in Android builds (Jellybean and later) so that all handset makers have to put HE-AAC multichannel into their devices. There are no licensing fees for players sending or receiving HE-AAC audio.

At its booth, Fraunhofer is giving a taste of what multichannel audio sounds like when streamed through an Android smartphone and displayed on a big-screen TV. The demo shows video and audio at a variety of bit rates (ranging from 750kbps to 2Mbps for video and 64kb to 328kb for 5.1 channel audio) to show that there's no buffering. The audio always sounds strong. This is the first time Fraunhofer has demonstrated this in the U.S. It's a good demo, but does anyone actually stream video that way, from a phone to a large living room TV?

"Google wouldn't put this in if they couldn't see a use case," said Jan Nordmann, director of marketing and business development at Fraunhofer.

Besides helping with the spec, Fraunhofer has also created HE-AAC documentation test vectors that will be used by encoding manufacturers, middleware companies, and audio and video players as they develop compatible products.

"DASH-IF has been working on this for over a year now, so people want to see results," said Nordmann.

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