In 2017, the non-profit Alliance for Open Media, which includes Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Mozilla, Netflix, NVIDIA and many others, released the free AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) codec to replace H.264. This codec offers better compression (about 30%) than VP9 with the same image quality. Since then, Google has pushed for wider adoption and has even created custom AV1-enabled chips for YouTube.
Over the past few years, Google has launched an entire campaign to support AV1 across many of its services, including Google Chrome and YouTube. The search giant intends to use the codec to increase bandwidth on Google Photos, Google Meet and Android TV. Several other major tech companies have also adopted the codec as the next standard, so the future looks very promising.
To further empower YouTube, Google has developed a special chip called Argos. For the first time, the company spoke about it at the ASPLOS conference. About a hundred Google engineers have worked on the first generation of the chip since 2015. The company now has the second generation of Argos, which is used to encode uploaded videos in different formats and optimize them for different screen sizes. Google claims its new chip can process video up to 33 times more efficiently than conventional server processors. Plus, it dramatically speeds up 4K video processing.
Argos isn’t the first custom YouTube video encoding chip, but it was the first to get hardware support for AV1. This gives smartphone manufacturers more incentive to offer support for this codec on their devices. For more information on the Argos chip and how it can improve the YouTube experience, check out the company’s blog.