Like Dolby Sound? Now watch Dolby Vision; coming soon to Xbox One

Call it an eye-opener. As television manufacturers scramble to find ways to make you upgrade your TV set with gratuitous innovations such as 3D TVs, 4K resolution and curved screens, Dolby Laboratories (NYSE:DLB) has lined up TV and media partners at the ongoing CES in its own bid to get consumers excited by announced imaging technology named Dolby Vision.

We all know Dolby as an innovator of sound and voice technologies for cinemas, home theatres, PCs, mobile devices, and games, but with this a new imaging technology, the company claims that content creators and television manufacturers can “deliver true-to-life brightness, colours, and contrast by augmenting the fidelity of Ultra HD (UHD) and HD video signals for over-the-top (OTT) online streaming, broadcast, and gaming applications.”

If that sounds geek to you, it’s because it is. Nevertheless, with this latest attempt, Dolby may be trying to do exactly what other manufacturers are doing – to make you believe that the image quality of your current TV set is appalling and that you must go for the ‘true’ picture to keep up with the Joneses.

To be fair, Dolby Vision may perhaps bring both qualitative and quantitative improvement to our gaming experience. At CES, manufacturers are exhibiting technology prototype TVs in combination with Dolby Vision on various panel types and screen sizes, emphasising the scalability of the solution. Ecosystem partners for movies and television shows in Dolby Vision are currently expected to include Microsoft Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and VUDU.

Mike Seamons, Sr. Director of Xbox Video, Microsoft, said, “The improved image quality of Dolby Vision is compelling and offers exciting possibilities for both game play and streaming HD content to the living room.”

But beyond that, there doesn't seem to be much excitement especially among TV customers given that we think that we've seen it all when it comes to recent technological innovations in display technology. 

“Content mastered and color-graded in Dolby Vision can be seen at this week’s 2014 International CES event on the latest UHD and HD TVs from Sharp and TCL Multimedia,” Dolby says in a media statement. Television sets featuring Dolby Vision technology will be available in the market later this year.

The company claims (obviously) that this is a quantum jump on the old, restrictive technology, and are hoping that once customers see the difference, they will be demanding an instant refund for their just bought television sets and go for the Sharp, TCL or other TV sets that feature its technology.

The problem with the whole television manufacturing industry, as analysts see it, is that they seem to have hit a technological saturation point, much like the landline handset or the inkjet printer. There’s only so much that the current wave of innovations can do to make people upgrade. One of the most radical ‘upgrades’ for the TV sets came a few years ago when connected sets made their debut. That is great, as that allowed the user to use their screens as computers, and do quite a few things you can do on a PC.

Beyond that, however, manufacturers have been trying to lure us with baffling terminology like the ‘true ultra-definition’, ‘high quality pixels’ and ‘surface-conduction electron-emitter display’. Yes we get that our current TV set isn’t the sharpest ever, but you know what, we don’t think we really need to spend north of Dh20,000 to get what we see (pun intended) as incremental improvements to our television viewing time especially because what we see is largely dependent on the quality of the feed that our service providers beam to our box.

And industry players acknowledge that. “There is still work to be done to bring together the right mix of hardware, content, and streaming technology, and we look forward to working with great partners like Dolby to make that happen. Together, we will aim to give customers the highest-fidelity movie and TV experience possible,” said Jim Freeman, Vice President of Digital Video, Amazon.

“By dramatically enhancing picture quality, Dolby Vision will drive adoption of UHD 4K displays with a winning combination of more and better pixels,” said Hao E, Vice President, TCL Corporation, and CEO, TCL Multimedia. Sure we get that, but…

In addition, Dolby maintains that even though most TV shows and movies are recorded using camera technology that captures the colours and brightness of real life, much of that richness is lost by the time consumers get to watch. That’s because current TV and cinema colour-grading standards are based on the limitations of old technologies and require that the original video content be altered – dramatically reducing the range of colours, brightness, and contrast – before it can be reproduced for transmission and playback.

Dolby Vision, it claims, changes that, giving creative teams the freedom to use the full gamut of colours, peak brightness, and local contrast, with the confidence that those will be reproduced faithfully on televisions that feature Dolby Vision.

Will it be able to save the distraught TV manufacturing industry? 'Watch' this space.

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