Sony and Panasonic target 8K TVs for 2020 Olympics

The Rio Olympics have only just finished, but Japan is already gearing up for its 2020 staging of the games. We’ve seen prime minister Shinzo Abe morph into Mario, heard about plans to make medals from scrap smartphones, and now, it seems Japanese tech firms want to bring something particularly special to the Tokyo Olympics: 8K TV.

According to a report from Nikkei, TV-makers Panasonic and Sony will be partnering with broadcaster NHK and others to develop broadcast technology capable of handling 8K video. This super-high resolution is four times as sharp as 4K (currently the standard bearer for high-res broadcasting), and 16 times as sharp 1080p.

Tests of 8K video already took place during this year’s Olympics in Rio, with NHK broadcasting a small selection of footage from the games alongside a grab-bag of 8K content, including a concert by J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. But given the extreme rarity of commercial 8K TV sets (the first set was only unveiled by Sharp last October and cost ¥16 million or $160,000), NHK had to organize public viewing stations for people to watch its broadcasts. It’s not unusual for NHK to be so far ahead of the mainstream either — it started broadcasting HD TV back in the 1980s, more than a decade before the resolution became widely available.

Nikkei reports that Sony plans to start selling its own 8K TVs in 2020, while Panasonic did not disclose a date. The two companies are reportedly happy to work together for the time being to develop the technology, simply because there is no existing market for them to compete over. NHK meanwhile reportedly wants to start full-scale broadcasting of 8K TV in 2018. But even if Japan is ready for 8K by 2020, it’s unlikely the rest of the world will be entirely caught up.

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