At the Alibaba Cloud Computing Conference in Shenzhen on March 28, 2018, Alibaba Cloud became the first technology company to broadcast in 8K, making Alibaba Cloud the first and only cloud vendor with 8K video distribution capabilities. Right now over 70 percent of internet traffic comes from video and in the future it could exceed 90 percent.
Humanity has never stopped pursuing a clearer world on the big screen and television, from black and white television to HD LCD flat screens. This is also the case in online video streaming. From 320P to 720P to 1080P and finally 4K. Clearer and higher definition video has always been the goal. Now ultra-high definition, intelligence and ubiquity are all features made possible by cloud computing and cloud infrastructure.
While streaming in 8K may not be rapidly or widely adopted, 8K represent humanity efforts to break the limits of what humans can achieve. Practically 8K can be used in gaming, medical assistance, and industrial manufacturing to name just a few.
The World’s First Internet-based 8K Live Streaming
On March 28, the cloud-computing arm of Alibaba Group leveraged its own network to conduct a three-minute broadcast from the Chinese e-commerce giant’s Hangzhou headquarters to the Alibaba Cloud Computing Conference, 1,300 kilometers away, in Shenzhen.
The livestream delivered a definition of 33 million pixels per frame and a resolution of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels. That’s double the pixels in 4K, which is the best-quality video currently in wide use, and about 16 times that of a typical high-definition video.
“Alibaba Cloud’s 8K Internet live streaming heralds a new era for high-resolution video cloud solutions, just as 4K resolution did in 2013,” Zhaoyuan Zhu, head of Alibaba Cloud’s Content Delivery Network business, said.
8K broadcasts have been conducted before, however they were done via satellite rather than the internet. Also, while Alibaba Cloud provided the network to deliver the higher resolution, separate 8K hardware is necessary to achieve a successful broadcast, including both a camera and a display. That technology is still under development. Indeed, 8K televisions have yet to reach the market, although at least one is expected later this year.
The higher the resolution, the more information that needs to be transmitted over the internet, which presents new bandwidth challenges for the host, Alibaba Cloud said. As a solution, the company used proprietary software for video playback and live streaming, a dedicated live broadcast center, high-speed video channels and Elastic Computing Servers to provide end-to-end 8K streaming.
Alibaba Cloud also has a Content Delivery Network with over 1,300 nodes around the world capable of delivering future 8K livestreams to a global audience, the company said.
The uses for 8K technology range from gaming and entertainment to medicine. Doctors in Japan are already using 8K instruments in some surgeries, while 8K livestreaming is expected to enable doctors to conduct surgeries remotely.
“We will continue to develop our services to support these different applications,” Zhu said.