I had a look at the implications of the Facebook Metaverse on emissions from computing. It is scary.

For the ideal VR experience, you need a network bandwidth of 1.6Gbit/s. To watch an HD video at 4K currently, you need 25Mbits/s; 8K would be 100Mbits/s.

So VR requires 64x more bandwidth than 4K video!

Ignoring the infrastructure emissions, purely running this from a cloud data centre effectively means a 64x increase in energy consumption and therefore in carbon emissions.

When I researched my talk about Frugal Computing, I did not discuss VR, as none of the studies I referenced considered it. But with a giant like Facebook behind it, VR might become a very considerable part of our lives.

That would be a disaster: already, emissions from computing are dominated by video. VR will make this many, many times worse.

The only bright side is that with current technologies, there is not enough electricity in the world to power this ideal-experience VR revolution.

@wim_v12e whither multicast?

maybe whereas video streaming is incredibly inefficiently done and yet not inefficient enough to do something about it, simultaneously wandering around 3D pictures might be enough to tip the balance?

@ve0hak I'm not sure about how much difference multicast can make as I have not looked into it. What could make a big difference is local rendering using accelerators. Nevertheless, I fear none of the tech improvements will be enough to offset the increase in emissions resulting from the projected growth.

@wim_v12e I'm not sure either. Doing the rendering centrally probably means that multicast for transmission wouldn't help much. Multicast would be efficient for sending geometries and textures that everyone needs to know about.

I'm also not sure about the relative cost of rendering vs transmission. Even transmission is as efficiently as possible, GPUs use a ton of energy, and that would basically be constant whether done centrally or at the edge.

So yeah, either way, I'm not optimistic either.


@ve0hak I was thinking of FPGAs though, not GPUs. My main consideration is embodied carbon.

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