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YouTube goes ultra high-def: 4K videos to debut at CES

Sony, which makes this 4K set, is among YouTube's partners at CES.Sony

Do you crave more pixels in your cat videos? YouTube will be showing off 4K, or ultra high-definition (UHD), video at CES this year in partnership with a number of other major tech companies, according to a GigaOm report. But it's not just a "me too" effort to fit in with the latest TV trend — there's a lot going on under the hood to make it happen.

4K video is twice as wide and tall as the 1080p image found on most modern TVs, necessitating four times as many pixels to be sent to the viewer. Many are skeptical that there's any visible improvement at all when the image is viewed from a normal distance, but the fact is 4K is the new thing and will likely stick around — so we may as well get used to it.

UHD presents problems for streaming video companies like YouTube and Netflix, though, since four times the pixels means four times the bandwidth needed to send them. So Google and YouTube have been hard at work at a new method of compressing video that will make it all possible.

VP9, as the companies call it, will compete with the industry standard H.264/5 compression, both of which should allow ultra high-def video to be streamed without a hitch — or ordinary videos to load far more quickly. VP9, however, will be free to use, unlike its competitor, for which companies must pay a hefty licensing fee.

We'll be at CES to inspect this and other new developments in person; tune in to our coverage starting Jan. 5.