The Olympics are just barely over, and you're still probably nursing your sport-scorched eyeballs. Give your mind a break after all that TV. But in just four short years, we'll be at it again. So how will we watch the Olympiad next time around?
Visually, the London games didn't change much at all from Beijing four years before, with the exception of 3D — still more a gimmick than a quantum leap. A hilariously small number of Brits cared to watch the BBC's 3D broadcasts and I imagine even less watched the Channel Nine broadcasts, but we'll have to wait for the ACMA report into that. We're now staring down a future Olympiad complete with some serious TV tech that's lurking just around the corner; the question is whether you'll be able to pay for and feast your senses upon it when the Rio games begin. Here are our best bets:
You'll still be watching in regular ol' HD
Although we've peeped 4k and 8k super ultra hi-def displays that cram the equivalent of 10 modern TVs into one, there's a big jump between CES and your living room. Basically, don't count on watching the Rio games in all those millions and millions of new pixels.
8k is out of the question entirely — you won't even be able to buy a TV that supports it by then. 4k sets, however, will slowly trickle out over the next several years, available only to the mega-mega-rich that can afford to early adopt a TV that you can't watch anything on. You see, content is the problem. And content is the only reason to own a 4k set — just like it's only worth having a 1080p display if you can watch 1080p movies and shows. And given how few people will be able to pony up for 4k sets even by 2016, it doesn't make sense for a lurching content monolith like Channel Nine to upgrade all of its equipment and overhaul its entire broadcasting system to pipe 4k television into your house.
HD Will Look Even Better Than It Ever Has Before
Why? Because OLED. Unlike 4k, TV makers have concrete plans to bring the mega-vibrant new display technology into reality. Samsung plans to sell a 55-inch OLED set in South Korea later this year, and Sony's teaming up with Panasonic to manufacture "affordable" OLED sets by 2014. These will almost certainly still be mega-unaffordable at first, but a couple years of lead time could make OLED a feasible purchase for you in time for the 2016 games. And in a city like Rio, you're going to love all that extra popping colour.
Streaming Online Will Be Fast As Hell At Home...
Around the Rio games, the National Broadband Network will have passed over 2.5 million houses, according to NBN Co CEO Mike Quigley which will bless many with 100Mbps download speeds. The added speed will make things like multiple 1080p YouTube streams of Usain Bolt's sweat, possible on your MacBook Pro Air Touch, Surface EX9Trillion or iPad 7.
...And Fast As Hell On Your Phone
The plan, as sketched by the telco powers that be, is to gradually deploy 4G/LTE within the next year or so. Telstra's network already has over 1000 base stations, Optus has just gone live in Sydney and Perth with more cities for consumer plans ready to follow, while Vodafone is set to deploy the network by next year. That means when you have service and enough data on your plan, you'll be looking at near-instant tablet 1080p.
You Might Be Watching On An Apple HDTV
The only thing that'll make us more certain that an Apple HDTV is in the works is actually sitting down in front of it. And four years is plenty of time for that to become a reality. All rumour-y signs point to a release far before that, meaning we'll be using what's sure to be the best TV interface in history. Siri, which will be your new remote, will work much better by then. Add that to a predictably gorgeous screen, and picture this: you talk to your TV to flip through your favourite events of the Rio games.
What's most exciting though is that if Apple has its way with broadcast partners, you might be able to ditch your terrestrial broadcast and stream the entire Olympiad through a dedicated app, ABC iView-style. This kind of beautiful streamlined ease could be the event that proves just how amazing an Apple HDTV could be.
You'll Definitely Be Watching On Multiple Channels
We'll also likely be watching different sports on multiple channels, too. You may have noticed that during these games, especially if you're watching Channel Nine's free-to-air coverage, that you'd see the same sport — most likely swimming — on both Nine's main channel and GEM, the network's digital offspring. That's because Nine signed contracts for the quadrennial sporting event with FOXTEL and the International Olympic Committee back in 2007.
That was before GEM even existed, meaning that the caveats required to broadcast multiple events across different channels weren't even thought of. FOXTEL actually paid the big bucks to broadcast different sports across eight of its channels because they were actually in existence when the contracts were signed.
When the Rio Olympics come around, it's likely that a free-to-air channel will think to include a caveat allowing for multiple events to be streamed across a gamut of its digital channels.