Days before CES 2014 kicks off, YouTube has announced it plans to demonstrate 4K video streaming at the event on a range of displays from its new hardware partners, using a codec specially developed by Google.
Ultra-high definition video isn’t exactly new – we saw plenty of it at least year’s CES event – but what makes YouTube’s offering stand out is that it is based on VP9 instead of the H.265 video codec, which is at the core of most other 4K implementations.
VP9 is a new royalty-free codec that Google has been developing as an alternative to the commercial video format. To kick things off, Google has partnered with LG, Panasonic and Sony to show off YouTube’s 4K video streaming at CES 2014. Aside from that, other companies such as ARM, Intel, Broadcom, Marvell, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba have also pledged their support for YouTube’s 4K video streaming.
This isn’t the first time Google has ventured to standardized its video codec for streaming. In 2010, Google launched the VP8 video codec, which it hoped would become the default format for plugin-free video streaming and real-time communications. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen due to lack of hardware support and opposition from other companies who are also looking into establishing commercial video formats.
Though this will probably start a video codec war, Francisco Varela, global director of platform partnerships at YouTube, insisted that’s not the intention. Rather, all YouTube wants is to provide a way to stream ultra-high definition videos at reasonable bit-rates whilst reducing the amount of data needed for HD video streaming.
Varela mentioned that the company expects the VP9 hardware to land on PCs and smartphones first. He added that we probably won’t see the first TVs supporting Google’s video codec until 2015.
Speaking of 4K, a number of companies are expected to unveil 4K TVs at CES 2014.
Polaroid will be showcasing two TVs at CES: a 50” 4K set that costs $1,000 and features three HDMI inputs; plus a 50” set with a built-in Roku stick for streaming priced at $600 that also features HDMI input.
LG will also be showing off a bunch of TVs at the event. We can expect a range of displays of between 55”, 65”, and 77”, with some of them featuring OLED displays, curved screes, and of course, 4K resolution. LG isn’t giving away too much about its next generation of TVs, but said in a statement that its 4K offerings are “future-proof, able to decode broadcast signals in both H.264 and HEVC H.265 formats, at 30p or 60p. A convenient built-in decoder makes it possible to display Ultra HD content from external devices connected via the TV’s HDMI, USB, or LAN ports.”