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It’s official: We’ve entered the era of 8K TVs. Around the world, sales of 8K displays are steadily increasing, and with TV manufacturers constantly adding more offerings to the mix, the 8K market is expected to continue to grow.
There are, however, a few challenges that need to be addressed before viewers around the world will be able to enjoy 8K’s stunning visuals in their entirety. First, more 8K content will need to be produced, and second, network connections need to be made capable of supporting the seamless streaming of 8K movies and shows.
To address these issues, researchers from Samsung Research, an advanced R&D hub within Samsung Electronics’ SET Business, have developed an AI Codec known as AI ScaleNet. First introduced at SDC19, this innovation enables the delivery of 8K content on networks that typically support only 4K speeds—without the need for additional infrastructure.
To learn more about AI ScaleNet’s development process and potential applications, Samsung Newsroom interviewed Kwangpyo Choi and Youngo Park—researchers from Samsung Research’s Visual Technology team, and the first individuals to suggest and develop this type of innovative technology.
Supporting More 8K Content
AI ScaleNet utilizes deep learning technology to minimize data loss during compression and enable 8K content to be streamed on networks with lower bandwidth capabilities.
Here’s how it works, in a nutshell: 8K content is compressed to 4K quality using an AI downscaler and transmitted to the user’s TV, which utilizes AI to upscale the content back to 8K quality. When asked to describe the inspiration for the technology, Choi specified a need for a new video compression and transmission technology in order to accommodate the ever-evolving media landscape, and to address related technical challenges.
“Multimedia content is rapidly moving online, so figuring out how to overcome bandwidth limitations for UHD content transmission has become a major task,” said Choi.
“With AI ScaleNet, users will be able to enjoy 8K-quality content, even at lower bandwidths,” added Park. “In fact, during periods of high network traffic, when speeds tend to drop, viewers can still expect content to be presented at a relatively higher quality.”
AI ScaleNet addresses bandwidth limitations within modern network infrastructures with what’s known as an adaptive AI Codec. “AI Adaptive Bit Rate Streaming refers to AI technology that adapts to various bandwidths and adjusts the resolution to enable seamless streaming,” said Choi.
The difference the technology makes is especially clear when using over-the-top (OTT) services, where viewers typically notice changes in picture quality. As Choi explained, however, Samsung’s AI Codec and AI ScaleNet technology utilize AI that adapts to changes in bandwidth and optimizes quality, so users enjoy the highest-quality streaming experience possible.
A Groundbreaking Innovation
As the researchers described, the development process wasn’t without its difficulties. “The most difficult part was ensuring compatibility with existing codec compression technologies,” said Choi. “How to design an easy-to-use algorithm that would be compatible with existing technologies, while delivering the intended performance at the same time was the question.”
Choi also noted difficulties that derived from gaps in perspective between the research and development teams. There were several considerations related to complexity, design and structure which researchers took for granted, and were questioned by the developers.
“We were able to achieve this result thanks to the synergy of both our team members, who worked closely to achieve the same goal, and colleagues who were focused on the technology’s commercialization,” said Park. “I believe that AI ScaleNet is the first technology to overcome bandwidth limitations by addressing complexity issues and separating the server and client sides, respectively. It’s relatively difficult to commercialize AI technology today for the purpose of enhancing resolution, which is different from commercializing AI for recognition and classification.”
Empowering Richer User Experiences with AI Technology
When asked how AI technology will contribute to the advancement of TV technologies in general, the researchers pointed to two possible directions.
“The first would be greater user convenience, and the second would be enhanced picture quality,” Choi began. “The first point is already being delivered with Bixby. To enhance people’s viewing experiences, technologies that support the best possible picture quality at minimum bandwidth, such as AI ScaleNet, should be continuously researched and developed.”
As the researchers noted, Samsung has big plans for this versatile technology. “AI ScaleNet has shown us that by overcoming challenges, we can help usher in the future and enrich the user experience,” said Park. “Going forward, we will continue to research and develop additional functionalities that add to users’ convenience, and through cooperation with content service providers, we hope to empower diverse services for Samsung devices.”