As consumers become slowly accustomed to 4K televisions, Sharp and the Japanese broadcaster NHK are preparing to introduce 8K next year.
Where 4K is four times the resolution of the full high-definition (HD) television screens, 8K is 16-times the resolution.
The technology will be demonstrated in the Middle East next month at IBC Content Everywhere Mena conference, but it will be a while before consumers start shelling out for such high quality sets.
“8K is incredibly good resolution, on top of that it gives you the depth, something like 3D,” said Fumio Yamaguchi, the managing director of Sharp Middle East and Africa.
8K technology highlights features that may not always be visible to the naked eye, including pores and wrinkles or specks of dust on a table. Films such as Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises were shot in 4K technology, but the amount of content available in 4K is still limited.
Most of the major television manufacturers have unveiled 8K screens including Samsung, Sony and LG, but Sharp is the first to partner with a broadcaster to bring the technology to consumers.
“We announced this technology in October in Japan in cooperation with Japan’s national broadcasting company NHK,” said Mr Yamaguchi. “We are working much closer to materialise 8K broadcasting service in Japan.” According to Mr Yamaguchi, NHK has been using 8K technology since 1995.
Sales of televisions grew 11 per cent last year in the UAE, but sales of 4K televisions are still minimal. Internet-enabled televisions now account for 43 per cent of the digital TV market, compared with 35 per cent in 2012, according to Euromonitor International.
Generally the prices of previous generation TV sets tend to get appreciably cheaper as new technology is adopted.
“The continued population growth will be one of the main drivers of further volume sales growth,” said an analyst at Euromonitor International. “The number of households [in the UAE] is expected to reach almost 1.8 million by 2017 compared with less than 1.7 million in 2013. This will drive sales of LCD TVs (which includes 4K) from across the price spectrum but prices are expected to continue falling.”
Globally, shipment of 4K televisions in 2014 stands at around 800,000 units, according to the US Consumer Electronics Association.
“In a couple of years 4K content will become popular. 8K will be popular from the year 2020, the customer will decide then, but one clear thing is 8K will start broadcasting in 2018,” said Mr Yamaguchi.
Sharp has also developed a “free-form display” for LCD screens which eliminates the need for bezels around the screen and so moves televisions away from the traditional rectangular shape.
“Without a bezel there is no limitation to the design display, so you can use screens for many applications including dashboards in cars or mobile phones,” said Mr Yamaguchi. “From 2017 you will begin to see the new displays.”
Sharp claims to have seen an average growth of 20 per cent every year for the past seven years.
“All this uncertainty and wars has damaged our sales a little bit. Last year our growth ratio was a bit slow, unlike the first four years,” said Mr Yamaguchi.
Michael Crimp, the chief executive of IBC, the conference organiser, said: “The display of super hi-vision complements today’s connected environment with a vision of the future where massive, high resolution screens will be a part of the media landscape.”
“Like any new technology 8K televisions price points will be out of reach to most consumers, however down the line this technology will start to replace older televisions and consumers will have limited choice but to go for ultra-high definition devices in the coming years.”
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