When you stop and think about it, technology today moves at an astoundingly fast rate. By the time you get your hands on the latest smartphone, something newer and better will be out. Several decades ago, the gaps between new technologies were much, much wider. The very first television was released to the public in 1927, but it would be another 23 years before the first color tv went on sale. Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876 and it was nearly a century later when the very first mobile phone was introduced. Bill Gates and his high school friend, Paul Allen, formed Microsoft in 1975, and personal computers started to go on the market a few years later. That was only a few decades ago- people born in 1975 would be about 42 now, and today nearly everything is run by computer. Think about how different our lives would be without this vital technology- we wouldn’t know how to function!
If you try to wrap your head around it, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. After so many technological advancements in such a short amount of time, where do we go from here? Sure, scientists will keep working to combat disease. Smartphones will keep getting more advanced. Maybe someday we’ll see a flying car. But where do we draw the line? Is there ever a point where we reach our maximum potential and there is no more room for improvement?
According to USA Today, television will never have another “ah-ha moment” like it did when flat screens were introduced, replacing the older, boxier models. But, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Today, having overcome that barrier, tv manufacturers have turned to improving picture quality- constantly striving for a clearer, crisper, sharper-than-life image. Samsung, the leader in the television market, unveiled its latest technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas, QLED, an improvement to quantum dot technology that makes 2D images look somehow three-dimensional, realer than life. “With QLED TV, you are not watching TV. You are looking through a window,” said Samsung SVP Dave Das.
That may seem like a breakthrough, but really, if all tv manufacturers are doing is making slight improvements to already near-perfect picture quality, can those improvements really be considered breakthroughs? According to HS Kim, President of Visual Display Business at Samsung, “Picture quality is no longer enough to grow the television market.”
So if the tv itself has reached a point where it has a slim margin for improvement, where does the business go next? According to Samsung, television needs to turn its attention to total integration into the smart home ecosystem. For Samsung, this means making all of their 2017 tv models internet-connected and making television compatible with smart home devices like the Amazon Echo. This would entail partnering with competitors such as Google, Alexa, or Comcast, but Kim is not opposed to the idea.
Additionally, tv manufacturers such as LG are introducing slimmer, razor-thin screens by putting the tv’s power supply in the soundbar. Screens may become a thing of the past altogether in just a few years, as some companies are developing a new generation of 4K laser projectors.
All of these improvements are impressive, but when you think back to the overall timeline of technology, specifically television, they are marginal. It’s hard to say exactly where television is headed and what that technology will look like a few decades from now. The only thing that remains certain is that, despite the convenience of smartphones, television viewing remains just as popular as ever, so tv likely isn’t going anywhere. Twenty years from now, you’ll probably still be watching tv from the couch in your living room like you do today. Maybe you’ll control it with voice commands or maybe you won’t be looking at a physical screen at all, but tv will still be tv.