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Latest TV Technoloy: Ultra-High Definition TV.


Television makers are trying to find the next big thing that will get you to throw out your current TV and buy a new one. They thought it might be 3D TV. That didn't work out. So now they've come up with something new. They're showing it off this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which is where we found Rich Jaroslovsky. He writes about technology for Bloomberg News, and he told us about the newest new viewing experience.

RICH JAROSLOVSKY: It's called ultra HD-TV, and it's designed basically to make you think that the snazzy HD-TV that you have in your den is as inadequate as the old CRT TVs that you had before you replaced them with the snazzy new HD-TVs.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm. People who've been following this know that HD-TV is just a far, far sharper picture. The color is supposed to be much more vivid. You can see far more wrinkles and flaws in people's faces. So what's it like when you look at ultra HD-TV? Do you see even more flaws and wrinkles?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, essentially, imagine what you see in your den right now, and then quadruple it. You can see pores. You can see the veins on leaves. It's very immersive. You can get up really close, and you don't see the dots that make up the picture. These ultra HD-TVs have four times the pixel count of the existing HD-TVs, and they're actually working on ones that will have eight times the pixel count.

INSKEEP: Who is showing it off, and what did it look like? What were they showing on screen?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, the - almost all of the major manufacturers that are here - Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Sony - most of them are promising to bring some of these to markets sometime this year. Sony has, I believe, an 84-incher out for a cool $25,000. But they all have created content specifically to show off the TVs, whether it's, you know, forest shots or cityscapes. And that raises one of the issues about these TVs, which is: Where is the content going to come from? Most of the content that's available today is not created for ultra HD-TV. And so you're going to have to ask the question of who's going to create the programming for this, and how's it going to get there?

INSKEEP: Oh, because anything that I watch is going to be on the older format. And then I guess there's a question of getting it to me, especially if I am getting programming via the Internet. Is there a bandwidth for four times as much image on the same screen?

JAROSLOVSKY: That's a big question. Right now, nobody is quite saying just how long it would take to download something. And since TV is increasingly moving to the Internet, that is one of the big questions. Another one is whether broadcasters, cable operators will be willing to create ultra HD channels. So I think initially what they're going to be doing is to sell these things as a better HD experience. But the real power of this won't get unlocked until you have the content available on cable systems, on satellite systems and over the Internet to be able to run these programs in their native mode.

INSKEEP: That raises a key question for me, Rich Jaroslovsky. As you were looking at the ultra HD-TV screens, did you cry? Did your heart beat faster? Did you fall in love with a person on screen? What happened?

JAROSLOVSKY: Well, I have to admit that at a certain point, I got a faraway look in my eyes and I began to imagine having one of these in my study at home or in the den, and maybe watching my beloved San Francisco Giants in glorious ultra HD-TV. But then when I saw the price tags that are going to be on these things, at least initially, it's sort of snapped me back to reality.


INSKEEP: Maybe you don't need to see every single stitch on the baseball.

JAROSLOVSKY: Twenty-five thousand dollars for - even for an 84-inch TV is not a discussion I think I'd like to have with my family.

INSKEEP: Rich Jaroslovsky, it's always a pleasure to talk with you. Enjoy the rest of the show.

JAROSLOVSKY: Thanks so much, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.