Technology Trends – Ultra High Definition Television

One example of modern technology that can be consistently counted on to change is the venerable television set. First there was original TV in all its black and white glory. Then along came color and that settled things for a while, then, seemingly out of the blue, flat screen technology arrived at the same time as a new television broadcast standard emerged: HDTV; high definition television that gave us sharper pictures than could ever have been imagined back in the early days. HDTV comes in three flavors, 1080p or i, and 720p. Here, "p" stands for progressive scan, not pixels as is commonly thought, and "i" stands for interlaced, but they all describe how many pixels are on the screen, more means smaller and smaller means a sharper image. Now, it appears, we are on the cusp of a new standard, ultra high definition television (UHDTV), though it's not yet clear what exactly that might mean; some say it will be "4K" while others insist it will be "8K".

The "K" in the upcoming standards refer to the number of pixels across one row, though not exactly evenly as the numbers imply. 4K would mean approximately 3840×2160 for a total of 8,294,400 pixels on a screen. 8K would mean 7680×4320 for a total of 33,177,600 pixels on a screen. The 4K standard appears ready for primetime, as Sony has announced a set ready for delivery by the holiday season this year, which will measure a massive 84 inches diagonally. 8K, though it's just been approved as a standard, hasn't yet matured into an actual product; some examples of what's coming could be seen at this past summer's Olympic games.

What's really important to note here is that there is a physical limit to how far high definition can progress, because of our eyes, not the technology. But then, that's assuming there will be some limit to the size of television set we want. That's because television standards apply across all sizes of TV sets. A forty inch 4K UHDTV will have the same number of dots as a 120 inch 4K UHDTV, which will mean the smaller TV will always have a sharper image than the larger TV; at least when compared at the same distances. That's where our eyes come into play. Experts tell us that if we sit far away from a giant TV, we get the same clarity we would sitting close to a smaller TV, even if the giant TV actually has the same number of pixels as the smaller one, meaning it's actually fuzzier when viewed up close. So unless we're planning to install thirty foot ceilings in our homes, 8K resolution will probably be the best we'll ever need, because we wouldn't be able to tell the difference with something sharper. This means, any future trends in television will likely involve modifying the number of colors each pixel can represent, giving us a picture that more naturally represents nature.