Forget 3D: TV Technology Is Getting Exciting Again

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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped-up in Las Vegas last week. The annual event gives enthusiasts a taste of the latest gadgets and devices on the horizon of consumer technology - including TVs. Here's what the future of television looks like.

This year, we saw advances in digital health, new integrations for voice assistants, an expanding door to secure your deliveries (which can be heated or cooled), a machine to fold your clothes, and even a flying vehicle.

Television technology was, once again, a focus. LG introduced a roll-up TV screen, we saw more inbuilt technology and integrations, and bigger and better pictures.

So what does this mean for the future of television in Australia?

What we mean when we talk about TV

Before we get into the technology, let’s have a chat about screens.

Television content is no longer limited to the television screen: we can now view it on our mobiles, tablets, desktop computers and laptops.

And research shows Australians are increasingly consuming media across multiple screens. In 2017, the average Australian home had 6.6 screens, up from 5.4 in 2012. This trend is likely to continue with the expansion of screen-based technology.

Companies such as Microsoft and Google are continuing to invest in the development of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technology. Take mixed reality glasses, for example, which were again showcased at CES this year.

These types of glasses have the potential to make the traditional television screens obsolete, by effectively giving users a mobile screen that allows them to view media of size, anywhere they want.

The future of the TV screen as we know it

After flirting with 3D television earlier in the decade, manufacturers have decided to cease investing in the technology, which means there was no 3D television at CES this year. Instead, we saw upgrades to traditional screen technology.

The most talked about was LG’s rollable screen television. It’s not quite origami, but it’s close. Imagine those old roll up projector screens integrated into a low TV unit, with a 65 inch OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV screen and 4K resolution. The screen also allows you to partly roll it down to remove those annoying top and bottom black bars, used in films of a wider aspect ratio.

In addition to rollable televisions, a number of brands showcased their 8K televisions. Unfortunately the increase in image quality won’t mean much for Aussies, other than a potential drop in the price of 4K televisions. Here’s why.

Currently, the maximum broadcast quality of free-to-air television in Australia is high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels). Some secondary channels are broadcast in standard definition (720 x 576 pixels). If you’re watching on a 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) screen, the image will be a much lower quality than you would expect, essentially pixelated.

While Foxtel has recently launched its dedicated 4K cricket channel, there is no clear sign of when, or if, other broadcasters plan to embrace broadcast technologies that offer greater resolutions – even though freeing up spectrum space was part of the reason for ending community television use of the broadcast spectrum.

So take note anyone planning to purchase an 8K television in the near future: you may have difficulty accessing image quality that will match the screen’s potential.

VOD continues to grow

One technology that has the potential to deliver higher image quality is video streaming. Operating via the internet, video-on-demand (VOD) services could adapt far quicker than Australia’s traditional broadcasters.

And the VOD market will continue to expand in Australia in 2019.

We recently saw the launch of Network Ten’s subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service, Ten All Access. It integrates Ten’s local programming with programming from the service of their US owner, CBS All Access.

A new dedicated sports streaming service, Kayo Sports, has also recently launched. The service leverages the current media rights obtained by Fox Sports, which allows for more than 50 sports to be delivered by the service.

Stan, one of the original SVoD services launched in Australia, has had a recent upgrade, obtaining the rights to stream Disney content. Disney has announced in will launch its own VOD service in 2019, although it’s currently unclear whether it will be available outside of US. But the deal with Stan will give Disney an indication of Australia’s appetite for its content.

Bandwidth is an issue

In addition to the introduction of new services, streaming continues to be integrated into Smart TVs, with Samsung announcing at CES that it will integrate iTunes into its TVs.

The use of internet-connected televisions is increasing in Australia. While 27% of households owned one in 2014-15, the figure jumped to 42% in 2016-17. But bandwith could impede streaming services from delivering higher resolution content. While more than 86% of Australian households have internet access, speed is an issue.

Netflix already offers a 4K option, but recommends “a steady internet connection speed of 25 megabits per second or higher”. According to a 2017 Ookla Speed Test Global Index, Australia was ranked 55th in the world for fixed broadband. With an average download speed of 25.88 Mbps. This speed is to be shared across devices in the home, making the Netflix 4K recommendation unattainable for many.

The Conversation

Marc C-Scott, Senior lecturer in Screen Media, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


Comments

    Netflix already offers a 4K option, but recommends “a steady internet connection speed of 25 megabits per second or higher”.That's a very high recommendation. I can watch 4K Netflix on a single screen, and my internet is only about 30% of that speed.

      Meanwhile, everyone else using your internet cant watch anything.

        Single screen = there is no one else using my internet

      It might be downgrading after detecting your connection speed.

      Unless you have an absolute minimum of 15mbs you're almost definitely not watching 4k quality, its auto downgrading your connection. you need to have at least 15mbs to 25mbs for 4k or you simply cant watch it

        Well, I'm just going by the resolution the Netflix app is telling me it's displaying. If Netflix is lying to me, I guess I have no way of knowing for sure.

          I think there's a Netflix info setting. Alternatively my Youtube app on my Hisense has a "Stats for Nerds" section under a bug icon I believe.

      This would be the lowest NBN tier, which you should have guaranteed speeds.

      Just to cover all bases, 25megabits per second (Mbps) is different to megabytes per second(MB/s).
      25Mbps = 3.125MB/s

    I still reckon rollable screens are a solution to a problem no one has.

      I reckon they have some very real uses. There are tons of stories about little kids knocking over tvs, getting crushed by them, or just damaging them. Imagine having a 65" TV that hides way when not in use, no more worries about that happening. Same with having a wild party.

      I think it's also great for ease of movement. Far easier to pack and ship a product that's in a relatively small box than something that's in a huge flat carton. That could reduce shipping costs and the risk of damaging them in transit.

      And that's before you even get to the cooler possibilities that arise once the tech matures. imagine a tablet that's a small tube less than an inch in diameter and six inches long. But you pull it out and suddenly you've got a 12" tablet screen in front of you. Or a laptop screen that rolls out of the keyboard instead of folding on top of it. Or being able to put them on curved surfaces.

    Currently, the maximum broadcast quality of free-to-air television in Australia is high definition (1920 x 1080 pixels). Some secondary channels are broadcast in standard definition (720 x 576 pixels). If you’re watching on a 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) or 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) screen, the image will be a much lower quality than you would expect, essentially pixelated.

    While technically displaying a low res image on a high res screen may result in pixelation it's not really an issue if the screen size is the same. In fact a lot of SD content looks far better on a HD screen because they use smart algorithms to smooth images and *reduce* pixelation. Think of it like anti-aliasing in games. The problem then tends to be that the image actually loses sharpness, sometimes appearing "softer" than it should.

    Even if they don't have a smoothing algorithm it should still look pretty close to the same since the "dot" of colour that you see is still basically the same size it's just that in 4k it's using four pixels to show it instead of one. And at 8k it'd be 16 pixels.

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