Imec ITF: HD taste? Developing the ultimate human/television experience

Click to EnlargeIn an SST-exclusive blog series, Mieke Van Bavel, science editor, imec, writes from the research organization’s International Technology Forum (ITF) this week in Brussels. Van Bavel summarizes a talk on new multimedia experiences by Jan Willem Brands (CTO, Barco), "How many pixels is enough?"

May 27, 2011 — In a pleasantly animated presentation, Jan Willem Brands is in pursuit of the ultimate television experience. His starting point is ‘Super Hi-Vision,’ promoted by NHK, the Japanese broadcaster. With 32 million pixels, this television displays 16 times more visual data than full high-definition television (FHD TV) does. On top of that, it has about 24 sound channels to create a really 3D sound experience. Commercial introduction is planned for 2020. Is this the end of television innovation? How many pixels and sound channels are ‘enough’ for human beings to process and enjoy? A rough estimation brings us to the number of 18 gigapixels (=600 million pixels x 30 parallel screens) for an ultimate vision experience and about 400 channels for an ultimate sound experience. So, there is room for improvement.

Let’s take it a step further. According to Jan Willem Brands, the real and ultimate multimedia system needs to represent all the 5 senses, i.e. vision, sound, touch, taste and smell. We can estimate the bit rate that we need to ultimately experience each sense. E.g., for taste, taking into account the number of different tastes, the maximum number of tastes that we can experience per second, etc, we end up in a bit rate of about 600bit/s. If we do these calculations for each sense, we end up in a grand total of 108 terabit/s: room for improvement. Of course, this brings along huge challenges, as today, there is no practical way to broadcast smell and taste. We could probably find inspiration in Hollywood science fiction movies, which have a tradition of ‘predicting’ future technologies like the early holographic representations (as in Star Wars) and a ‘direct connector’ (as in Avatar). Even so, developing overwhelmingly realistic face-to-face communications is a huge challenge.

Mieke Van Bavel and colleagues are blogging exclusively for Solid State Technology from imec’s International Technology Forum (ITF) this week in Brussels.

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