Sharp, NHK push 8K TVs ahead of 2020 Olympics

Next-generation displays are being promoted as consumers try to catch up to 4K

A visitor to the Ceatec 2014 tech expo outside Tokyo checks out Sharp's latest prototype 8K display. Japan aims to begin 8K broadcasts in 2018.

A visitor to the Ceatec 2014 tech expo outside Tokyo checks out Sharp's latest prototype 8K display. Japan aims to begin 8K broadcasts in 2018.

If you aren't ready for 4K TVs yet, you could wait a few more years for the next big thing -- 8K.

Rave comments were heard in front of Sharp's latest prototype 8K display at the Ceatec electronics expo outside Tokyo this week as the company tries to spark interest in the next level of dazzling displays.

The enormous 85-inch LCD display has a resolution of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels, which is 16 times that of standard HD TVs, and a frame frequency of 120 Hz. The screen was showing eye-popping images of Dubai's Burj Khalifa. Even close up, its tiny individual pixels were very hard to see.

While Sharp has been working on 8K prototypes for years, it said its latest is the first to meet the so-called "BT.2020" standard for 8K resolution and color gamut set by the International Telecommunications Union, which was approved in June.

Many consumers may still be unaware of the 4K TVs that have appeared at CES and other technology trade shows in recent years. The U.S. Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts that shipments of 4K displays will reach 800,000 this year.

"Certainly, the bigger the screen gets, people would like to have high-resolution pictures," Sharp spokeswoman Miyuki Nakayama said about the 8K prototype, noting the company has no plans for commercialization yet and the display is still in development.

Japan is firmly behind 8K. Sharp's prototype netted an award from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which is promoting the standard along with public broadcaster NHK.

NHK is part of an effort to begin so-called Super Hi-Vision 8K test broadcasts in 2016, four years ahead of the initial time frame of 2020.

Regular broadcasting of 8K signals could begin in 2018, according to a roadmap adopted under the Next Generation Television & Broadcasting Promotion Forum (NexTV-F), a Tokyo-based consortium set up last year for 4K, 8K and other standards.

"In 2020, we will be hosting the Tokyo Olympics, so we need to prepare the environment so audiences can watch 4K or 8K broadcasts," said Takahiro Izumoto of NHK's Engineering Administration Department.

Not far from the Sharp booth at Ceatec, NHK was also showing off 8K displays including a 120-inch theater screen with a 22.2 multichannel sound system and an 85-inch 8K screen by Sharp equipped with Hybridcast, a system that allows the screen to display Internet and other content alongside TV shows.

In a demo, one area of the Sharp screen showed a TV broadcast of a golf tournament, while other areas of the screen showed related player stats, a map of the golf course, reactions on social media networks and even a golf video game in another section. A staffer swung a tablet connected to the screen, causing a cartoonish golfer in the video game to swing its club.

Online content may be one way to fill the gap between the high resolution offered by the 8K format and the lack of content. Since 8K cameras, which record at nearly 72 Gbps, are still experimental, 8K content will not be available for years.

"Of course the hardware side must catch up with all the broadcast and infrastructure," Sharp's Nakayama said.

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