8K Television may be a key tool in the operating theatre of the future. Damian Radcliffe gives this nascent technology a thorough examination.
The emergence of 4K Television – the next generation of high definition – was one of the success stories of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The technology is expected to become increasingly mainstream in the coming years. With that in mind, Damian Radcliffe explores the next generation after that (8K), and what it might mean in the digital health arena.
“I hope you’re not squeamish?”
Fortunately, I’m not. This was just as well, as within two minutes of being asked this question I was watching close up footage of open heart surgery on an 80 inch TV screen. And in super sharp high definition too.
Definitely not an experience for the faint hearted. No pun in intended.
The video that I was viewing was being showcased at the IBC MENA Content Everywhere Conference, as part of an exhibition stand hosted by the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), is Japan’s only public broadcaster. Funded by fees received from TV viewers, it has a long track record of innovation. 1964’s Tokyo Olympic Games, for example, were the first Olympics in history to be broadcast via satellite and in colour, and more recently NHK has been a leading proponent of 8K Super Hi-Vision or 8K-UHDTV. Typically referred to as 8K for short, NHK believes that this nascent technology will ultimately become the standard for TV viewing.
Writing on the Digital Trends website, Caleb Denison observed that 8K can deliver “a picture that comes as close to reality as we’ve ever seen, due in no small part to the sense of depth that is created by the intense resolution.” Reviewing LG’s 98-inch 8K TV at the IFA 2014 conference in Berlin last September, she added that “the level of detail this TV was producing is hard to overstate.”
As NHK’s Hiroyuki Okubo explained to nuviun, this impact derives from the fact that 8K “is a next generation TV system comprising 33 megapixels 16 times that of HDTV and 22.2 multichannel three dimensional surround sound.”
Discernibly sharper than existing technologies, “it gives an extremely realistic presentation whereby viewers may feel as though they are actually at the site shown on the screen,” he says.
The driver for 8K’s development was a 2012 journal article published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which made the case for the creation of a new "UHDTV Image Format for Better Visual Experience."
Arguing that “8K is the ultimate television [experience] with a two-dimensional flat screen,” Okubo notes that “8K's technological specifications were decided based on scientific evidence to satisfy human visual perception.”
Although designed for TV and broadcasting applications (including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics), NHK is confident that the technology will extend into other areas.
8K for Digital Health
GIZMODO reported in December that “a group called the Medical Imaging Consortium—or MIC for short—has…used a new 8K endoscope in an experimental surgery where they successfully removed a pig's gall bladder.”
"It was a greater success than we had expected," said Toshio Chiba, chief director of MIC, last month.
The experiment found that the video resolution does not decrease even if the endoscope is moved slightly away from the affected area, whilst the high resolution afforded by 8K technology provided a level of detail which could be used for telemedicine and by surgeons and medical students over remote connections.
Commenting on the procedure, Tetsuo Nozawa of Nikkei Electronics notes that:
“While HD video is equivalent to an eyesight of 1.06 (approx 20/18.87), 8k video is equivalent to an eyesight of 4.27 (approx 20/4.68). As a result, it becomes possible to see the internal structures of blood vessels and the boundaries between cancer tissues and normal tissues that could not be seen before as well as sutures with a diameter of 0.15-0.199, which are difficult to see even with the naked eye.”
For NHK’s Hiroyuki Okubo, 8K technology:
“provides benefits to many perspectives of precision, speeding-up, and advancement such as endoscopic/laparoscopic surgery, image diagnosis, medical big-data, medical education and training, etc.”
Image: 8k4k Endoscope Tested in Animal Experiment, via the Nikkei Technology website. Copyright © 1995-2014 Nikkei Business Publications, Inc
As a TV broadcaster, these aren’t NHK’s primary concerns, but because the company has “developed 8K equipment in cooperation with manufacturers such as camera or display companies,” it’s likely that this work will “contribute indirectly to [the] advancement of medicine,” he says.
Much of this will stem from the fact “these manufacturers provide 8K technology and equipment to medical trials,” Okubo comments, whilst also expressing a hope that “the spread of 8K applications may contribute to [a] price decline of 8K equipment and sophistication of 8K technologies.”
Although 8K technology is still some way off in both a domestic and medical environment, efforts from manufacturers, healthcare providers and broadcasters may also contribute to the potential of this technology being realised.
For Hiroyuki Okubo:
“There are two big problems to be solved; higher sensitivity and downsizing.”
“The sensitivity of the 8K camera is lower than conventional cameras,” he told us, “and 8K cameras and peripherals are too big to install in an operating room,” he adds.
Given that this remains a nascent technology, it’s probably not overly surprising that 8K displays, storage and data transmission equipment are still relatively large; however it’s not unreasonable to assume that – like other technologies – these will all improve over time.
“Anyway,” Okubo says, “the most important thing is to establish a field that cannot be treated without 8K.”
For that, it’s over to the medical professionals…
The nuviun industry network is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author.