AI upscaling is Samsung’s answer to a lack of native 8K content

    This year, 8K TVs go from prototypes, to devices you can actually buy for your home (budget permitting). Naturally this raises the question of content sources.

    When considering a new 8K TV purchase, customers need to have content to watch on it. While TV manufacturers would content providers to already have everything ready to go in 8K, the reality is that’s going to take time.

    End-to-end production pipelines, from the cameras, to the computer hardware and software used for editing, as well as the large storage and bandwidth required to distribute 8K content, mean it’s a significant investment.

    In the change from HD to 4K, this transition took years and the same is likely to be the case with the 4K to 8K transition.

    Samsung understands this timeline and has an answer, that answer is an 8K upscaler that takes 4K, HD and even 720p content and upscales it for the newest TVs.

    Samsung’s 8K TVs start at 65″ and range all the way up to the mega 98″. This means potentially stretching those pixels massively. Samsung turned to Artificial Intelligence to help solve the challenge of poor quality images, jagged edges and banding in gradients.

    Samsung’s AI upscaler achieves ‘close to 8K’ quality from 4K content and while that sounds like marketing, after seeing it working in person today, I’m convinced it’s an accurate description as the image quality looks fantastic.

    There’s no doubting native 8K content will look the best, but other than a small corner of YouTube, our actual 4K content sources are very, very limited today.

    Samsung have a dedicated AI chip on their 8K TVs to manage the intense processing involved in performing this magic.

    Using Machine Learning, Samsung was able to throw a large volume of content to train the system in what looks bad and what looks good. This model that modifies the way content is displayed to optimise the end result, is done by breaking down parts of the image and comparing it to the model.

    What’s interesting is that every 8K TV from Samsung will automatically contribute data (think annonymised metadata) back to Samsung about what worked well. This NPU or Nueral Processing Unit can be updated over time, so effectively your TV will get better at up-scaling over time.

    Before the privacy issue is raised, this model is already quite well established by companies like Tesla who send data back to base about autopilot interventions. The improved Nueral Net is then provided back to Tesla vehicles worldwide, making cars better over time.

    Here’s a video of the upscaling in action. While it may be difficult to see the difference in much of the video, I can assure you, 4K content sources upscaled to 8K were phenomenal quality, given they’re being stretched to 4x their source material.

    While 8K TVs in 2019 are certainly for early adopters, the upscaling (which may be showcased at retail) is a big aid in delivering an experience that exceeds 4K by a long way.

    If you have the means to buy an 8K TV this year, you can have confidence the AI upscaling will make things look amazing.

    The one final consideration is that gaming and PC inputs will unfortunately not use the AIR upscaling technology. Set top box, blu-rays, Over-the-air and IP content will.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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