Amazon Promises "single-digit latency" for AR/VR Streaming Over 5G with AWS Edge Platform


Last month Amazon quietly announced the ‘Wavelength’ platform as part of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) offering. The new ‘edge computing’ service promises “single-digit millisecond latencies” over 5G networks. Amazon says the platform is made for “latency-sensitive workloads” including AR/VR streaming, game streaming, IoT and more.

AWS is one of the most prevalent cloud computing platforms in the world, acting as the back-end web infrastructure for millions of customers.

In an announcement last month (which seems to have slipped under the radar of many of us in the XR space) Amazon revealed a new AWS service called Wavelength which is designed specifically for latency-sensitive applications served over 5G networks. Promising “single-digit millisecond latencies” to end-users, Amazon is engaging with major mobile carriers deploying 5G networks to locate AWS resources at the ‘edge’ of these networks to facilitate low latency for applications like cloud-rendered AR and VR content.

As we noted in our feature—Sifting Reality From Hype: What 5G Does (and Doesn’t) Mean for VR & AR—it is edge computing, not merely 5G, which is the key enabler for streaming real-time AR and VR applications from the cloud.

“Today, application traffic has to travel from a device to a cell tower to metro aggregation sites to regional aggregation sites and to the Internet before it can access resources running in AWS. These network hops can result in latencies of more than 100 milliseconds. This prevents developers from realizing the full potential of 5G to address low-latency use-cases”, Amazon wrote. “Wavelength addresses these problems by bringing AWS services to the edge of the 5G network, minimizing the latency to connect to an application from a mobile device. […] [Wavelength] allows developers to build the next generation of ultra-low latency applications using the familiar AWS services, APIs, and tools they already use today—eliminating the need for developers to negotiate for space and equipment with multiple telecommunications providers, and stitch together application deployment and operations through different management interfaces, before they can begin to deploy their applications.”

Amazon points to “emerging interactive applications like game streaming, virtual [and augmented] reality, and real-time rendering that require latencies of single-digit milliseconds to end-users,” as potential use-cases for AWS Wavelength.

At the outset, the company is engaging with carriers Verizon, Vodafone, SK Telecom, and KDDI to launch the service across in the US, Europe, South Korea, and Japan in 2020. Amazon says the service is presently undergoing pilot testing by customers using Verizon’s mobile edge compute (MEC) system.

As far applications using the AWS Wavelength service, Varjo, maker of high-end VR headsets to enterprise, is among the first to be announced. The company believes cloud rendering of AR and VR content is crucial to scaling the technology.

“Now, instead of having to develop expensive local computing services that would be impossible to run on a battery-operated device, we can use edge computing to scale the rendering power and the business of our industrial-grade [headset] from thousands to hundreds of thousands of units,” said Varjo CEO Niko Eiden.

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