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Gadgets - Feb 2, 2018

Four TV tech trends to watch for in 2018

Rollable, bendable, bigger and brighter – here are the latest innovations coming to televisions this year

4K? Pfft. That’s so, like, 2017. If what we saw at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – the annual trade show that offers a glimpse into the near future of consumer technology – in January was any indication, that’s just table stakes. If you’re curious to know what else is on the horizon, check out these emerging TV trends and technologies, some of which are coming fast and furious, while others might be a few years down the road.

Shape-changing TVs

Finally, your next television may let you tweak its size, as needed. Available now are short-throw laser projectors, such as Sony’s $30,000 4K Ultra Short Throw and Hisense’s 150-inch Laser TV projector they each unveiled at CES, which can sit mere inches from the wall, on the floor, and can beam a sharp 4K image up to 150 inches (the farther back you place it). Pretty cool tech, but as for the future, LG’s panel division, LG Display, unveiled a crazy-cool 65-inch “rollable” OLED TV concept at CES. Press a button and it rolls up into a base, to tuck away or easily transport it to another room or home. Then things get interesting. For cinephiles who like their movies in cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio – without the black bars on top and bottom – just press a button and the screen drops down a bit to accommodate. Or hit a button again and the screen sinks into the box leaving an eight/nine-inch screen that displays information like weather, a music controls or other tools.

Then there’s Samsung’s modular The Wall TV concept, which wowed CES crowds with its MicroLED lighting and awe-inspiring 146-inch size. But the nifty magic here comes in that the TV is made up of seamless 4-by-6-inch panels that can be added or removed to make the screen bigger or smaller. So think of this: you may be able to purchase kits of these panels to customize its size to your room or liking. No word yet on how or when Samsung plans to distribute The Wall to customers, but you can be sure we’ll be watching.

Smart AI assistants

You couldn’t walk 10 feet at CES without seeing something powered by or integrated with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Many TV companies are integrating these voice-activated personal assistants into their televisions, allowing a whole new method in interaction and control. Press a button on the remote to activate the assistant and ask a question or give a command. It could be TV related like, “Play Star Trek Discovery,” or “Turn the TV off after this show,” or something else altogether, such as a question – “How long will it take for me to get to work?” Some AI assistants will be exclusive, like Samsung’s Bixby and LG’s ThinQ platform that further integrates their own lines of smart appliances (imagine being able to see inside your fridge from your TV), but LG will also support both Google and Amazon in select models.

Better picture

Many of today’s 4K TVs support High Dynamic Range (HDR), which delivers much better contrast (deeper blacks and white whites), higher brightness levels, and more vibrant colours. Going forward, you’ll see more televisions branded with technologies like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, two improved types of HDR, plus there are a few others that might catch on, too, like Advanced HDR by Technicolor and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), jointly developed by the BBC in the UK and Japan’s NHK.

Higher resolution

Don’t throw out your 4K television just yet – as content is still catching up to the hardware – but 8K TVs were already being shown at CES, from companies like Samsung, Sony and LG. Yes, this means these TVs will one day deliver eight times the resolution of a 1080p HD TV. Instead of two million pixels (dots) that make up the image, we’re talking more than 16 million, resulting in much greater detail. They’re definitely bubbling beneath the surface, but don’t expect these TVs to be commercially available for a few years yet.