The Evolving Future of 8K Streaming

By Emily Teng, product manager of Advantech’s North America video solutions division

New advancements in technology and innovative concepts consistently impact industry verticals. In terms of the broadcast and entertainment industries, where consumers upgrade to the biggest and best TVs on a regular basis, this is evidently true – with Nielsen highlighting that Americans watch in excess of eight billion hours of content via connected TV devices per month. With their debut at CES 2019, 8k TVs are projected to greatly succeed within the industry as both consumers and major manufacturers are now hopping on the 8K train. This evolution, however, brings to light an important question for the future of TVs: is 4K out now that 8K is in?

The Major Differences – 8K vs. 4K

Referring to a horizontal resolution comprised of 7680 pixels and a vertical resolution of 4320 pixels, 8K UHD TVs have two times the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K UHD TVs (3840 x 2160). Typically, 8K UHD has 33.2 megapixels and 4K UHD has 8.3 megapixels – with 8K essentially having four times as many pixels as 4K, and 16 times as many pixels as Full HD (1920 x 1080).

When viewing a Blu-Ray movie without changing the resolution on an 8K TV, for example, the screen will take up 1/16 of the screen, as Blu-Ray stores video in 1080p as a standard. This goes the same when viewing on a 4K – if one plays 4K content on an 8K TV, the image cannot be played in full screen. Overall, the higher the pixel count within a digital image, the sharper the image appears. Launching its first 8K OLED model, LG’s 88-inch 8K Z9 OLED is on the market for $30,000, with a less expensive model, the 75-inch 8K NanoCell model, selling for $5,000.

8K TVs Are Here to Stay

There is a common misconception that 8K TVs have arrived on the market before their time; however, in the world of TVs and technology, developments occur at an incredibly quick speed. For example, Sharp’s first 8K TV went on sale in 2015 for $133,000, and just a few years later, Samsung now has its 8K TVs on the market starting at $5,000.

That being said, while 8K TVs are likely to not hit consumer markets for another couple years as manufacturers adopt the new technology, it is predicted that the cost will decrease further and further. Just as was the case with price drops in 4K TVs, 8Ks will undoubtedly follow suit – and consumers will no doubt embrace the new evolution in the TV industry wholeheartedly.

The Latest Updates with 8K Content

As with any technological advancement, one of the greatest challenges with getting 8K TVs on the broader consumer market is the lack of currently available 8K content. In terms of overall amounts, there is either not enough 8K content or the sufficient bandwidth needed for the streaming of that high-quality content. Nonetheless, this fact is slowing changing within the industry thanks to video-streaming sites such as YouTube and Vimeo embracing 8K through platform development to support the new technology. Since launching support for 8K content in 2017, Vimeo currently hosts 6,000 8K-tagged videos, and YouTube also has thousands of 8K videos – though its search filters have not yet been adapted to search for resolution over 4K. Similarly, NKH, a broadcasting organization in Japan, has tested a channel dedicated to supporting 8K content and has now made it a permanent offering. As this trend continues, future events such as the 2020 Olympics will absolutely provide a major opportunity for Japanese broadcasting to showcase additional 8K content.

Native content is only one aspect of the 8K evolution. Several 8K TVs currently available can upscale 4K content to 8K content. In fact, Samsung’s latest TVs utilize a dedicated 8K processor and artificial intelligence system that can convert 4K content in real-time at a frame-by-frame level.

The Benefits of Utilizing 8K

Other than the obvious improvements in visuals, there are numerous additional benefits that come with the adoption of 8K TVs. For instance, 8K can be implemented broadly and used throughout the media industry. Doctors can utilize an 8K endoscope to obtain a far clearer image of an infected area when seeing a patient and providing a more accurate diagnosis or treatment plan. Similarly, a teaching hospital can take advantage of 8K TVs to stream and showcase live surgeries to classrooms for medical students – highlighting the vivid image and crystal-clear pixelization of the surgical process to enhance student learning.

Looking Toward the Future

According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds watch TV primarily via streaming services. As such, the most important aspect of the 8K business model is the effective cooperation with partners in the high-definition video streaming ecosystem – focusing on a complete solution for end-consumers. Combining this with the current consumer mentality of “fast technology” and upgrading the newest smart phone, gaming console, TV or other tech on an almost yearly basis, there is a strong foundation for 8K to expand greatly in the consumer market within the next year or two.

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