The Alliance for Open Media came out with the royalty-free AOMedia Video 1 (AV1) codec back in 2017 to replace H.264 as the primary codec for online streaming and media consumption. The AV1 codec offers around 30% better compression than the previous VP9 standard without hampering picture quality, and Google has been pushing for wider adoption of the codec ever since.

Over the last few years, the company has rolled out AV1 support on many of its services, including Google Chrome and YouTube, and the company plans to use the codec to improve bandwidth for Photos, Meet, and Android TV as well. Several other major tech giants have also adopted the codec in recent times, including Netflix, Facebook, MediaTek, and Vimeo, and its future looks quite promising.

Second-gen Video Coding Unit with two Argos chips
Second-gen Video Coding Unit with two Argos chips

Second-gen Video Coding Unit with two Argos chips

To further enhance YouTube’s capabilities, Google has also developed a custom chip, called Argos. The company recently shared details about the chip at the ASPLOS Conference (via CNET). According to a blog post on the matter, Argos is a second-gen Video (trans) Coding Unit (VCU) that converts videos uploaded to the platform to various compression formats and optimizes them for different screen sizes. Google claims that its new Argos VCU can handle videos 20-33 times more efficiently than conventional servers.

YouTube encoding and decoding process
YouTube encoding and decoding process

YouTube encoding and decoding process

Although Argos isn’t YouTube’s first custom chip for video encoding, it’s the first to include AV1 support. Thanks to this, smartphone OEMs now have more incentive to offer AV1 support on their devices. As a result, we should see even wider adoption of the codec going forward. For more information on YouTube’s new Argos chip and how it’ll help improve the YouTube experience for both viewers and creators, check out this blog post.