An idiot no more

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Over the last two decades, the TV has changed as much as any other bit of technology. LCDs, rollable screens, addable MicroLED panels… today’s smart TVs can seem like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, says Vaibhav Sharma

The 65-inch television sits flat on the wall, framing Spider-Man flying over buildings in sharp colours. But the minute it is switched off and the screen goes dark, magic happens. At the push of a button, the display descends and disappears into its stand. The screen rolls down completely for safe storage, leaving a narrow section sticking up, which functions as a small display strip showing weather updates and sports scores.

This is not science fiction. This is LG’s latest prototype that was on display at CES, the world’s biggest consumer electronics show, held annually in Las Vegas, the US. While LG is not far from launching this flexible rollable TV, there’s much more happening in this segment. Here’s a glimpse into the future of television.

8K is on its way

Sharper, clearer and more life-like, 4K Ultra high definition (UHD) TV screens have already set new standards. But things aren’t standing still and we are close to a new technology that will blur the lines between reality and fantasy even further. 8K is the future, and it’s not that far away. Consumer electronic market leaders like Sony, LG and Samsung, among others, are almost ready to launch 8K Ultra HD TV sets, which will have four times better resolution than a full HD TV. The extra sharpness of these displays will make bigger TV sets more attractive and let smaller ones benefit from razor-sharp visuals!

AI makes a difference

Smart TVs are as mainstream as anything can get, and it’s getting difficult to find a ‘dumb’ TV. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, YouTube, your vacation photographs, games… it’s all there without the need to buy any other home theatre accessory. Whether it’s Samsung’s Tizen, LG’s WebOS or Android, smart TV interfaces are improving to become more featurepacked and even more intuitive. Features like gesture control, voice assistance and smart home connectivity have become common. There’s even more coming up in this zone, and fast. LG’s new ThinQ AI TV is proof. This TV features Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted cloud-based voice services such as Amazon Alexa, and can double as a smart home hub to control other appliances connected with it. The TV’s new Alpha 9 processor will not only make voice commands more powerful but also lead to better visual quality, thanks to AI technology. Sounds like magic? Not really. Samsung promises that its upcoming 8K TVs will display even low-resolution content in full 8K glory by using AI and machine-learning, which will analyse each scene faster!

Fancy displays go mainstream

Television sets with organic light-emitting diode or OLED panels (made from carbon-based materials) are popular for a reason. They consume less power, have excellent contrast quality where colours seem to pop, and offer wide viewing angles. Another once-you-see-it-youcan’t- go-back feature is high dynamic range (HDR), which makes images look unbelievably colourful and lifelike. Till recently, OLED and HDR technology were reserved for the most expensive TV models but not only is that trickling down to the mainstream segment, there’s also a new upgrade in the offing: TVs that are transparent! Panasonic is working on a TV that will become transparent when switched off.

MicroLED is on its way

At CES in Las Vegas, Samsung presented a massive 146-inch TV. Dubbed ‘The Wall’, it’s an apt representation of the TVs of the future. Part of what makes this so important is the MicroLED, an emerging flat panel display technology that you can remove and add as you want. This, according to experts, offers all the advantages of OLED while fixing some of the issues of the technology’s previous version. MicroLED displays are brighter, modular and easier to manufacture. Imagine adding new panels every year to get an even larger TV!

Better sound, better aesthetics The TV-watching experience isn’t just about 1. Sony’s Bravia A1 uses Acoustic Surface technology to turn the TV display panel into a speaker 2. TV sets with OLED panels have great contrast quality and offer wide viewing angles 1 snazzier visuals or smarter controls – it’s also about sound, and yes, aesthetics. There’s plenty of work in progress to make TVs an integral part of your home décor and less of a gadget in your living room. Rollable TVs, transparent screens, MicroLED panels – these technologies will go mainstream sooner than you imagine. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Frame is already out – this super-slim TV manages to look like an art piece sitting flush against the wall. It also comes with a wooden frame and a unique, single-cable connection, that hides all the cable clutter.

The audio experience is steadily improving too – you can already buy TVs that feature Dolby Atmos support. Sony’s Bravia A1 uses Acoustic Surface technology to turn the television display panel into a speaker.

And there’s more on its way, as experts predict the launch of a technology that can tailor your TV’s sound to what you’re watching and also to your room’s acoustics. Also expect future TVs to feature AI-enhanced audio processing that will offer big sound even from the slimmest TVs!

The author is a senior journalist and the views expressed in this article are his own

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