Imagine that every inch of wall space in your home is covered with a touch-active, ultra-high-definition light-emitting screen. You’re able to change the appearance of this electronic wallpaper with some simple swipe and tap gestures or remotely using your mobile phone or tablet.
While preparing dinner in the kitchen, your backsplash doubles as an Internet browser where you can search recipes or watch Paula Deen on YouTube. The living room wall displays movies in IMAX quality, 33-million-pixel density. You can drag your virtual movie screen to any size and call up media content in any room of the house. Wall space becomes dynamic, interactive and media-driven, serving as the interface between you and all things digital — much like the personal computers, tablets and smartphones of today.
Sound outrageous? Well, it’s just one scenario that is possible in the future of television based on emerging technologies and recent innovations. And although there may be significant production hurdles in bringing these types of concepts to the mass market, some of the latest innovations are making the future of television look very bright indeed.
OLED, QLED, 8K ultra-HD, touch-sensitive flexible screens, virtual reality — it’s enough to make us pant with anticipation for the possibilities of the future and how we interact with TV. Even better yet, all this technology can be and is being used in today’s TVs to make them lighter, thinner and more interactive than ever. Let’s talk about the four technologies that will help shape the future of television.
The jump from HD to UHD can be compared to the jump from standard definition to high definition in terms of its impact on the viewing experience. The major difference is how big of a jump it is this time. The leap from SD to HD barely doubled the number of pixels while jumping from HD to UHD is going to quadruple itself twice. That’s right. 8K UHD is 16 times as many pixels as regular HD.
To give you some real world context, when you go to a movie theater you are viewing film at around 4K UHD Quality. IMAX is 8K UHD quality. You may be asking, “But do I really need that ultra-high resolution for every day use?” The answer to that question is really up to you. It’s not likely there will be a perceptible difference between 4K and 8K on screens smaller than 55 inches, so you’re not likely to see pixel densities that exceed this range in smaller screens.
OLED and QLED Displays
LED technology is not new, but new applications of this technology are enabling some of the above-mentioned breakthroughs in the viewing experience. OLED technology is what enables the wallpaper TV scenario. OLED — or organic light emitting diodes — technology is made up of thin flexible sheets of an organic electroluminescent material that emits light.
This light-emitting technology is what makes a paper-thin display possible. At less than 1 millimeter in thickness, an OLED screen can be rolled up like a newspaper. Unfortunately you can’t go out and buy a rolled OLED today, but chances are you’ve seen one if you’ve seen a curved display. In fact, LG is making an affordable 55-inch OLED TV. The unit is “pencil thin,” Web-enabled and the curvature of the screen more accurately replicates real life. Samsung had a version of this, but it was discontinued.
Touch Screen Everything
Just as the first two technology innovations merge into a singular force to be reckoned with, so too does number three on the list combine with existing tech to enhance the viewing and entertainment experience.
Let’s say you’ve got a pretty great TV set as it is, but you’re looking for a way to up your home entertainment game without completely breaking the bank. You need to check out this new TV accessory called TouchJet Wave. This device essentially transforms your regular LCD or plasma TV into a touch screen running Android software. Voilà — you now have the capabilities of a $3,000 TV with a device that only cost you $149.
Virtual Reality Headsets
This is a bit of wild card, since it doesn’t directly involve television sets per se. However, this is possibly the ultimate viewing experience. Taking this a step further, imagine stepping into a virtual world that is utterly indistinguishable from the real one. It would be like stepping into the Matrix. In more practical and relevant terms, you might Facetime or Skype with someone but actually be virtually with them in a three-dimensional world.
This technology is readily available and partly enabled by something you are probably already carrying around with you in your pocket: your smartphone. If you want a taste of this technology without breaking the bank, check out Google Cardboard.
That’s all great if you want to be completely immersed in virtual worlds, but what about real-world applications? For that there’s Microsoft HoloLens. An impressive demo shows designers interacting with their designs in 3-dimensional space, a father assisting his daughter with how to change a leaky bathroom sink pipe, a teen playing Minecraft in the living room. These are just a few of the possibilities.
Some think VR technology will soon take over much like the Internet has in the last 30 years.
Phillip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, believes that human interaction within virtual worlds can be as powerful as the Internet. Here’s what he told FastCompany on the subject:
“It is inevitable that we will get an Internet-scale audience in a virtual environment. I’m going to be able to wander around and do business and play and see things in virtual spaces. And I would like it to happen in the same scale as the Internet. The round number would be a billion people.”
So the question for the future is, how do you see these technologies enhancing your life in the next five years? Chances are you’ll come into direct contact with at least one (if not all) of these technologies, and as more new tech emerges, the standards will keep getting pushed higher and higher.