The future of free 4K TV went on display this week in North Carolina when WRAL broadcasted NBC’s Olympic Coverage in 4K ultra high definition.

The new tech is officially called ATSC 3.0, or Advanced Television Systems Committee 3.0 Standard A/300. Fortunately, the marketers have a little more sense and want to call it Next Gen TV.

What is Next Gen TV?

With everyday prices of 4K UHD televisions falling below $500, more and more of the population has the ability to watch ultra high definition content. Getting that content, however, isn’t easy.

Next Gen TV uses a new broadcasting system to transmit much higher quality video signals over the air. Besides the higher resolution, Next Gen TV signals will support high dynamic range and wide color gamut enhancements.

HDR lets televisions produce smoother transitions from the darkest part of the screen to the brightest. This creates richer colors and more detailed images. Wide color gamut displays, more commonly seen on premium smartphones and tablets, expand the number of different colors a screen can display.

Next Gen TV will also have an interactive component. The TV tuner will use your internet connection to integrate social media and other content into the video stream.

The Future is Still a Year Away

WRAL’s demonstration was a preview of what’s coming. Most TV stations won’t start broadcasting Next Gen TV signals until 2019. Just like the original transition from analog to digital TV, none of the televisions in our homes today can get those signals.

Fortunately, a simple Roku-style TV stick will be all anyone needs to get free 4K TV signals. As WRAL’s Pete Sockett explained to the News & Observer, “It’s actually very mobile. You can drive with this — in the back seat.”