Tsahi Levent -Levi
Tsahi Levent-Levi is an independent analyst and consultant for WebRTC.Tsahi has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications, VoIP,and...
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Tsahi Levent -Levi | July 12, 2012 |


Are We Headed Towards a 4K Industry?

Are We Headed Towards a 4K Industry? You won't see the difference, but then--who cares? You will buy it.

You won't see the difference, but then--who cares? You will buy it.

We all made the shift to HD. The whole TV industry is now geared towards that: From 1080p cameras, to 720p resolutions on mere smartphone devices. There have been talks recently about going 4K--essentially quadrupling the amount of pixels in the moving image industry. But is it really necessary? Will it be another fad, similar to 3D televisions?

When I attended CES a few years back, the new trends were obvious:

* Switching from LCD to LED
* Going for 120 Hertz and 240 Hertz televisions, for no apparent reason
* 3D televisions
* Gesture control

Out of the above, only the switch to LED happened. More than 60 Hertz doesn't have any reasonable use case yet. 3D wasn't received and adopted that well, and gesture control in a lean-back environment just doesn't work.

Is 4K going to be different or will it suffer the same fate? Let's review some opinions and trends shaping the 4K-industry.

The Missing Use Case
The main problem with more resolution on our displays is one of finding the use case. Here are a few that come to mind:

Watching Movies
Geoffrey Morisson wrote on CNET that 4K TVs are stupid:

"But with televisions, 4K is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. For every one of you thinking you'll rearrange your living room to sit closer to the screen, I'm positive there are thousands of others who wouldn't (or wouldn't be allowed to).

"Sure screen sizes are going up, but how many of you are really going to put an 85-inch screen in your home, and sit close enough to it for 4K to matter?"

He is correct, if you look at today's use of a living room display (I am deliberately not calling it a TV). The problem I have with this view is that it takes today's assumptions on consumption and deduces from that the success of a technology that has ways to go to become pervasive.

Video Conferencing
Here on NoJitter, Phil Edholm sees real opportunity for 4K displays:

"The point is that for video conferencing, bigger displays are generally better, unless you are sitting too close. 4K displays solve that issue."

So we now have a use case: take those expensive video conferencing room systems and find a reason for them to stay expensive. You increase resolution, require better cameras, more bandwidth and of course the codec being sold needs to stay expensive. How else will this industry keep its margins?

If this is the only use case, then the 4K display is doomed already.

The Future in Glass
Have you seen Corning’s "A Day Made in Glass 2"?

In it, displays are placed on every conceivable surface. You interact with them through touch and gesture. And most of it makes sense--it looks like a "small" leap of faith and a couple of engineering feats.

If you go to a wall mounted display--that is pretty much the whole wall--there are a lot of things you can now do with it, from watching TV on a "small" 50" area, showing mockup scenery to fit your mood; to telepresence or just showing information in smaller parts depending on the person in front of the display and his distance from it.

Now, that use case requires more pixels than we have today in HD.

Next Page: Economies of Scale


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