Display technology has come a long way in a relatively short time. The first ever commercial display, invented by Philo Farnsworth, was demonstrated to the awestruck public in 1934. Since that first demonstration over 80 years ago, TV technology has developed vastly, and the latest in a long line of display revolutions comes in the way of curved screen technology, wallpaper thin panels and back to back OLED displays designed for digital signage.
OLED technology is considered the biggest advancement in screen technology in the last 10 years. By being able to shut off individual pixels, it can achieve infinite contrast (not just marketing hype) and provides a deeper range of colours. In fact, the LG Ultra OLED TV (dubbed OLED55E6) was recently awarded the highest ever consumer rating in the U.S TV ratings consumer report, something which has been running for 80 years!
But LG haven’t stopped there, revealing some of the most bizarre and futuristic display concepts ever seen at this year’s CES. Firstly, they revealed a flexible TV screen that measures in at 1mm thick (the same as a DVD), and just 4lbs. The televisions are connected to the wall using magnetic mats, which opens up the possibility of having multiple magnetic mats in your home and simply peeling the TV off the wall to move it from room to room. All of this being said, there has never been a TV this thin before and it remains to be seen exactly how cables will be connected and how feasible a design like this in the real world.
Another concept they showed off was their back to back OLED display, designed for commercial use. The displays (or displays) are 55″ OLED panels that are sandwiched together back to back, showing off a combined thickness of just 4.9mm. The screens could be used as one source or two, making them a fantastically futuristic form of digital signage for companies that can afford the inevitably pricey design.
The Ever Increasing Pixel Count
With 4K display technology currently struggling in terms of content and commercial success, it may be surprising to hear that the large technology companies such as Sharp, Samsung and LG are already preparing for an even higher resolution future. Over the last few years at CES, these companies have been displaying their ‘8K’ display technology, a resolution 4 x’s higher than that of traditional Ultra HD. According to first hand reports, the image from these displays is the equivalent of viewing a moving painting, with no sign of visible pixels even when you press your nose directly to the screen (not advised).
The difference with this year’s CES however, is the fact that an 8K TV on show is actually going to be coming to market later this year, whereas previously they have all been prototypes. LG’s 98″ 8K set is aiming to be the first to market (something very important in the display industry), and although the size and price may be somewhat prohibitive for your average living room or kitchen side TV, it is a glimpse of what is to come in terms of picture quality in the not too distant future.
Although it could be argued this technology is somewhat overkill for the average viewer, in terms of business use there is value in having a resolution that doesn’t pixelate when zoomed in. For the production side of the equation, digitally zooming won’t affect picture quality, something of potential value to photographers, web developers and more.
It may be slightly too early to buy into 8K, as there is a serious lack of content, but reports show that network and cable companies are gearing up for an 8K future for their next large upgrades, meaning that this super-high-def resolution may have an even brighter future than 4K for traditional content distribution.
The Impact To Video Conferencing
The difficulty in streaming content to higher resolutions is the required bandwidth that accompanies them. Streaming a video conference through Lifesize in 1080p at 30fps requires around 1.2Mbps bandwidth. The average UK home currently has access to a download speed of 28.9mb, and an average upload speed of 3.7mb – very comfortably capable of 1080p streaming. But how difficult would it be to stream 8K footage? Well this is something that YouTube has been able to answer for us, as they have uploaded a small handful of videos that can display at this gigantic resolution. 8K stream bitrates generally hover between 20Mbps and 50Mbps, with the peak speed generally best for required performance and smooth playback.
So with the bandwidth technology and the TV technology remaining a few years away from an everyday reality, consumers may have a while to wait before video conferencing their teams in 8K resolution. But when that does become a reality, the ability to interact with your team at this resolution will benefit all users as the experience becomes even more lifelike.
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