Table of Contents Technology ShowcaseBuilding an Engaging Online Student UnionTechnology Showcase: Implications of the Internet of Things (IoT)Technology Showcase: The Natural Limitations of Technology: 4K TVsTechnology Showcase: Students Organize HackathonsTechnology Showcase: LEDs EvolveTechnology Showcase: Beyond Facebook: Social Media 2.0Technology Showcase: The Potential of Virtual Reality GamesTechnology Showcase: What Event Planners Need to Know About WiFiTechnology Showcase: 10 Pro Tips for Using Microsoft WordTechnology Showcase: It's Just a Video in PowerPoint–What Could Go Wrong?Technology Showcase: Competitive Presenting with PowerPoint RouletteTechnology Showcase: Adjusting Procedures to Provide Better A/V SupportTechnology Showcase: Tracking A/V Inventory in DEA EMSTechnology Showcase: Applying Innovative, Inexpensive Technology in a Theatre SpaceTechnology Showcase: Raspberry Jammin'Technology Showcase: Road Test: Apps for NotetakingTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Student Employee Scheduling ProgramsTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Project Management Software10 of the Top Commons Posts of 20152015 Education and Research Fund DonorsNeeds Assessment Identifies Strengths, Room for GrowthCAS Provides Better Tools for Relevant Functional AreasNew Team Provides Educational Tools, Discussion Opportunities Related to Campus ViolenceVolunteerism In the AssociationFrom the President: Who was Your First?From the Chief Executive Officer: Promoting Dialogue About Campus ShootingsMarch/April 2016 KioskOn the JobUnion Spotlight: Linda E. McMahon Commons at Sacred Heart UniversityUnion Spotlight: Andorfer Commons at the Indiana Institute of Technology
Volume 84 | Issue 2
March/April 2016

Technology Showcase: The Natural Limitations of Technology: 4K TVs

Jim Wheeler, Audio-Visual Manager, University of Connecticut

From The Commons:

By now you’ve probably heard about 4K TVs being the next big craze in video. They’re four times the resolution of the already-impressive 1080p high-definition viewing experience. They have greater pixel density for greater detail. Everything is sharper, colors are more vivid. What’s not to like?

I am personally excited about 4K technology, but probably not for the reasons that any sales rep would want me to talk about.

Here’s the deal with 4K. First, there’s virtually no content currently created in it, so purchasing one is like buying a Lamborghini when your entire daily commute is in a school zone. There’s no opportunity to utilize all those great improvements.

Now, in fairness, some movie studios are starting to shoot films in 4K. However, movies make up a very small percentage of the content we watch on TVs, and there are no DVD players currently out that play in true 4K.

You may have heard that Netflix has 4K content, which is true. But this leads to a much bigger problem that isn’t really being discussed: bandwidth limitations. Delivery of this content is barely even a talking point right now. The sheer size of a 4K embedded video is enormous and would be crippling on the infrastructure for cable companies and Internet providers. The big industry names are already fighting with the Federal Communications Commission about throttling download speeds, and that’s with content that’s minuscule in size compared to 4K.

This all leads to an even larger question that not many people are asking: Can you even tell a difference? The placebo effect is a big factor that contributes to the viewing experience. For example, you may have selected the 4K embedded content to watch on your 4K TV, and you might report that the viewing experience was amazing—but if your Internet connection peaks at 8 mbps, you didn’t actually watch the show in true 4K.

But beyond expectation bias is a very real, physical component: optimal viewing distance. Just so it’s not understated, we are at a point where viewing location, distance, and angle all play as much, or more, of a role in whether we are able to physically perceive the improved definition of an HD display. As in, the weakest point in the emerging video chain is becoming our own vision. So why am I excited by all this? Because it is signaling that a technology we all use is finally starting to enter its maturity.

Whether in your professional or personal lives, we all experience a reticence when purchasing a new piece of technology because we’re afraid it will become outdated in a year. Now we’re reaching the limitations of what we’re capable of accessing, of what our current infrastructure can handle, and most importantly, what we can physically perceive. The only true “future proofing” you can really count on with technology is its own natural limitations. With display technology, we’re finally seeing those limits.