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The Future of TV – HD, 3D, Ultra – what’s next?

by Beth Divine 21 Jun 2018

Entire generations have grown up with a television set in the house. In grandpa’s case it might have been an old black and white set with an eight-inch screen, while the grandchildren have probably experienced television from one of today’s impossibly slim, high-definition screens with crystal clear resolution and cinematic sound. Given how very quickly the technology has developed: the first television was not thought of a hundred years ago, and most homes only invested in the bulky and cumbersome cabinet sets in the 50s and 60s (domestic sets were available from the very late 30s, but few could afford them and there was little being broadcast at that time) – the future of the goggle-box is perhaps unguessable, Who knows what innovation will come along next, inviting consumers to try it out and changing the way we watch our favourite shows forever?

Televisions originally came mounted in wooden cabinets that required pride of place in a home, standing foursquare on its legs and needing long minutes to warm up before the set could be tuned – like a radio – to get the best signal. Over time the screens grew larger while the inner workings got smaller, with – as with mobile phones – a brief dalliance with the very small. Small, portable TVs were popular briefly in the late 80s and early 90s as people realised that they could travel and still keep up with their favourite soap operas and sitcoms. Now almost paper thin, televisions are no longer sturdy pieces of furniture that cats can sleep on, which they used to love to do (because the set would literally warm up and provide kitty with a cosy platform on which to snooze!)

Smart TVs with internet connections are already holding sway, while techs have turned their attention to the end result. From colour to high definition, television quality has continued to improve. 4K Ultra HD is coming along nicely, while 3D didn’t really take off, for reasons mentioned below.

With HD televisions, there are 1920 x 1080 pixels on the screen, which offers nice, clear images. But, 4K Ultra HD offers a staggering 3840 x 2160 pixels, up to four times the detail packed into the same screen size. Now, these ultra-high resolution televisions only work if the broadcast material is of the same quality, otherwise the superior set simply shows the picture at the broadcast quality – something that might be quite disappointing to the eager new 4K owner. There hasn’t been much high quality content broadcast so far, but it is on the increase and more consumers buying the sets will drive the demand – and the broadcasters will respond, and are, in fact, already beginning to.

In the future we have HDR – High Dynamic Range – also coming through the pipeline, offering sharper contrasts with darker black and brighter white to make the colours pop off the screen.

Also on the way, we can already see pricy OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) being pushed into the corner by QLED – Quantum Dot LED – which is cheaper, brighter, sharper and sturdier, using nanometre-sized particles within the display. At present, Samsung is using QLED in a metal alloy in conjunction with its LCD screens meaning their screens offer sharper contrast, brighter colour and a more ‘high definition’ experience than a regular LCD screen could provide. And going full QLED promises even more resolution, definition and clarity.

While 3D television made a lot of people feel sick and headachy – a form of motion sickness, not unlike that sometimes experienced by virtual reality users – perhaps AR (augmented reality) will offer the solution – real world surroundings to keep viewer’s semi-circular canals in good shape, but with computer generated AR objects to add a little magic or pizzazz to the room?

Whatever the future holds for television one thing is certain – we will all enjoy better graphics, clearer sound and greater immersion in whatever is playing.