Google has unveiled Lyra, a new technology that enables Duo and soon other apps to offer natural-sounding voice chat with as little as 3 kilobytes per second of network bandwidth.
Update: Google has now created Lyra open source code for other apps to use.
With so many of us still unable to visit loved ones, video calling apps have played a key role in keeping us all connected, with Google Duo and Meet hosting more than 1 trillion minutes of video last year alone. However, this has also put a heavy strain on the internet infrastructure around the world, and most video calling methods directly exclude anyone with a low internet connection.
To help with this, Google has developed a new audio codec called Lyra that is specially optimized to offer recognizable, understandable and natural sound human speech in as little space as possible. As explained on the Google AI Blog, this was done using a machine learning model, which was trained in “thousands of hours of audio with speakers in over 70 languages”
As can be seen – or rather heard – from the video above, Lyra offers sound that, although noticeably lower quality than a normally coded recording, is clearly recognizable as the speaker’s voice while being able to use incredibly little data. There are a few more examples of speech in Lyra compared to other low bandwidth audio codecs, over on Google AI Blog.
Lyra will soon have its first real use as it now rolls out to Google Duo for Android, where the codec will be used for calls made with low-speed connections, with Google specifically noting dial-up connections and rural areas in India and Brazil offering only a 2G network connection. From there, Google plans to release Lyra as open source, so that other companies can offer low-bandwidth Lyra audio in their own apps.
Update 4/6: Just over a month after it was announced, Google has kept its promise and made Lyra completely open source. Currently, this first beta release of the Lyra codec is only optimized for use by Android developers on Linux machines, but should be enough to give developers something to start working on, and later bring to all the intended platforms.
We are launching Lyra as a beta version today because we wanted to activate developers and get feedback as soon as possible. As a result, we expect the API and bitstream to change as it evolves. All code for running Lyra is open under the Apache license, except for a math core, which a shared library is provided for until we can implement a completely open solution across multiple platforms. We look forward to seeing what people do with Lyra now that it is open. Take a look at the code and demo on GitHub, let us know what you think and how you plan to use it!
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