By Virginia Heffernan
LAS VEGAS—Ever since man first got his greasy, prehensile mitts on touch screens—let’s say six years ago—he’s been pinching and zooming and otherwise pawing at stuff to make it change size.
This year’s Consumer Electronics Show proves we’re still at it—but with real, three-dimensional objects now. Everything is blowing up: The smartphone is becoming a superphone. The tablet is becoming a 20-inch manwich. There is a 110-inch terrifyingly ultra high-def flat-screen television set on display here!
One look at that TV and your internal wiring shorts, like those wiggy Victorian dudes flinching at the first movies. YIKES! Why does everything in giganto ultra-HD look hallucinatorily real and heart-stoppingly huge?!? Are my children OK? Is a woolly mammoth coming for me?
Little, light nanos and micros and minis are not much in evidence here. Unless they have been blocked from vision by those 110-inch gargantuans from Samsung and Toshiba.
The conclusion that no one cares about watching 3-D TV has been replaced by two more hopeful ideas: Maybe they care about making 3-D stuff! Samsung introduced a really nice and affordable ($500) 3D lens for aspiring James Camerons who would rather produce depth than consume it.
Hopeful idea No. 2: Maybe 4K could do for TV sales what 3-D didn’t! 4K is a rough approximation of the horizontal resolution of ultrahigh-def TV, which is basically four times as high-def as your 1080p HDTV. This stuff will not just make your eyes “bleed”—as high-def fans gleefully boast—it will also make your eyes close. Perhaps permanently. To SHUT IT OUT.
I’ve said it before, but now it’s becoming urgent. High-def and now the ghastly ultra high-def is pixelating beauty and wantonly messing with aesthetics. Maybe the vulnerable, miraculously flawed human form should not be represented with clinical, merciless precision. It’s hyperrealism that’s so hyper it’s not realism anymore. It’s disfiguring.
CNET calls the TVs that let two people watch different shows at once “hate vision” and claims split TV-watching with headphones is “anti-social.” But 4K does far more to promote misanthropy! It splits our sweet human faces into atoms and turns them into unsettling petri dishes of pixels.
And if this sounds too abstract—or if you like to see men and women so precisely you can make out where mascara detaches from a lash, or single nose hairs erupt from pores made the size of apps—you can console yourself with the thought that the Nevada-size ultra-HD TVs cost cost nearly $30,000.
I’ll settle for seeing Maggie Smith and Anderson Cooper in regular HD.
Correction, Jan. 10: A previous version of this article said that ultrahigh-def TVs have twice the resolution of a 1080p HDTV. They have four times the resolution.