Streaming from the cloud

Cloud computing is a term that has moved beyond tech forums and taken the mainstream by storm, and this is with good reason: it's the driving force behind the streaming revolution that has transformed how we access and consume content - think Spotify*, Netflix*, Google Photos*. In simple terms, cloud computing is when the internet is used to give users access to the processing power of servers that are located somewhere else in the world.

The major benefit of this is that it enables you to access a near unlimited supply of content and rendering power while minimising the use of your device's storage and processing capabilities. This opens the door to new, more high-end experiences because, although our personal devices are rapidly increasing in computational power, this will always be limited. The cloud, however, gives us access to industrial-level computing.

While cloud computing made its name in the mainstream by enabling us to save or access content on remote servers, improvements in internet connections are enabling us to take this to the next level. In the gaming industry, for instance, players can now access content that is rendered in real time on an entirely different machine and simply streamed to their internet-enabled devices. This has brought about a new era in gaming, with several big players including Google*, Microsoft*, Sony*, and NVIDIA* announcing cloud-gaming services.

The result is that the power of your device's GPU no longer dictates the quality of your experience. The only factor that matters now is your internet connection and your device's ability to decode a video stream. With internet speeds increasing and 5G mobile networks being deployed worldwide, we are finding that high-bandwidth and low-latency connections are increasingly available.

ZeroLight Cloud Streaming

ZeroLight's focus is on creating the most accurate, engaging, and luxurious digital experiences. As a result, its original, showroom-based solutions used top-spec workstations. The problem with this, however, is reach. ZeroLight needs to ensure its technology is accessible by as large an audience as possible. So, this rules out the high-end hardware, but it still needs to deliver the same high-end experiences with no compromises on visual quality. The solution to this problem is simply moving this high-end hardware into the cloud.

This evolution is exactly what ZeroLight developed for Audi* when it created the world's first cloud-powered 3D car configurator. With all rendering undertaken on AWS'* cloud servers, it can deliver the same high-fidelity graphics that it developed for the PC-rendered showroom solution to any internet-enabled device with no plug-in required.

Intel® Quick Sync Video technology

With ZeroLight, the highly detailed 3D content is rendered remotely, encoded live, and streamed to the user's device all in real time. This means that the end user's device only requires the capability to decode the interactive video stream. This is where the Intel® Quick Sync Video hardware video decoding optimises the experience even further. First unveiled in 2010, Intel® Quick Sync Video decoding has been available since the 2nd Generation of Intel CPUs. Now on its 7 version, the Intel® Quick Sync Video decoder has been optimised even further to decode a wider range of codecs while using less of the system's power. The supported codecs include H.264, H.265/HVEC, VP8 and VP9 - the most popular codecs when streaming video content because of browser software decoding support. To enhance efficiencies, ZeroLight's cloud-streaming solution chooses which codec to use by reviewing the user's browser, hardware decoding support, and connection speed.

The more optimal the decoding process, the lower the requirement on system resources - this applies to both CPU and Intel® Quick Sync Video resources. This, as a result, means less power is consumed, which reduces heat output and extends battery life if the customer is using a portable device.

Stream decoding test case

The results below were captured from a live deployment of ZeroLight's cloud-streaming service on, where interactive, live streams of 3D, real-time-rendered Audi vehicles are sent to the user's device. They are encoded as H.264 and decoded in the end user's hardware. The stream was tested on two devices while logging CPU and power usage. The first device contained an Intel® Core™ i7-8665U CPU and the second device contained the latest generation Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 CPU. See Appendix A for exact specs.

To keep the stream consistent for both tests, a mouse movement recording was taken of a user exploring the vehicle then played back on each device while recording the test data for 19 seconds.

  Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 Intel® Core™ i7-8665U CPU
Average IA Power_0 (Watt) 1.477740 3.133108
Average GT Power_0 (Watt) 0.615345 3.745201
Total Power (Watt) 2.09 6.89

The results show that total power usage is about 3x less than the previous generation. As mentioned above, this is especially important on portable devices as it will extend battery life and, as a result, the length of time that can spent enjoying streamed content on a single charge.

Results - CPU Performance

We can understand why the total power usage is lower by looking at additional processor stats.

The total % processor time has greatly dropped between the Intel® Core™ i7-1065G7 and Intel® Core™ i7-8665U CPUs used in this benchmark test. Similar results can also be seen in the context switches and system calls below; the lower they are the lower the CPU resource and the less overall power consumed.

The future

The success and impact of online configurators has been made clear repeatedly over the years, with almost all major OEMs having invested heavily in them. The reason for this is simple: they empower customers to research and personalise their dream vehicle from the comfort of their own home. The future for these experiences looks equally promising, as technological advancements are opening the door to new, more powerful experiences. Configurators no longer need to be limited to a selection of 2D images or low-polygon models. ZeroLight's cloud-streaming solution, for example, can instantly deliver a car's entire range of possible configuration options in product-accurate quality to any internet-enabled device.

"Streaming content from the cloud empowers brands to deliver high-quality, real-time visualisations to all users, regardless of the processing power of the user's device," says Chris O'Connor, Technical Director at ZeroLight. "Intel's hardware video decoding has enabled users of our streaming service to view 3D content efficiently for years, and the latest enhancements of the 10th Generation Intel CPUs mean users can enjoy our solutions for much longer on a single charge."

The results show that Intel® Quick Sync Video decoding has greatly improved beyond the previous generation. The improvements make streaming content more accessible by reducing the power and CPU resource consumption to a new low level.

"At Intel, we continue to improve the hardware video decoding capabilities of our CPUs, reducing the power consumption and improving efficiencies of the processing. As we continue to support new codecs and features, ZeroLight's cloud-streamed content showcases how each iteration will enhance this new generation of cloud-streamed interactive content." Fredrick Odhiambo, Intel

Learn More:

10th Generation Intel CPU

Appendix A

  • Intel Core™ i7-8665U CPU @ 1.9 GHz and 2.11GHz
  • Intel Core™ i7 1065G7 CPU @ 1.3GHz 1.50GHz
  • Mini Mouse, for reproducing mouse movement
  • Intel Power Gadget
  • TypePerf
  • Windows 10 Build 17763
  • Chrome Browser 76.0.3809.100

*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others

Follow our ZeroLight Tech twitter page for all our latest tech news and developments.