The Big Squeeze: Pioneer Crams 400 GB Onto Single Blu-ray Disc

Pioneer unveiled a new optical disc Monday that could theoretically hold the entire contents of the average consumer’s hard drive plus some — if it were rewritable.

The Japanese electronics manufacturer has created the world’s first 16-layer disc that squeezes 25GB on each level. The disc, however, is read-only, meaning the information on it cannot be modified.

Still, at 400 GB, the discs offer more than 16 times the storage space of a typical Blu-ray disc.

Problem Solved

The development of multilayer optical discs has been slowed down by the difficulty manufacturers have encountered when they try to obtain a clear, stable signal from each recording layer, Pioneer explained. Crosstalk from adjacent layers and transmission loss are to blame.

Using optical disc production technology developed for DVDs, Pioneer said it was able to solve these issues and create a disc structure that reduces crosstalk from adjacent layers. The result is a 16-layer optical disc that can play back high-quality signals from each layer.

So what machine will be able to read these new high-capacity discs? The discs are backward-compatible and will play on a Blu-ray disc player, according to Pioneer. The discs could be used by video game publishers and movie studios as a way to push out even more content on a single disc.

Pioneer will present the details of its research at the International Symposium on Optical Memory and Optical Data Storage 2008, which begins July 13 in Hawaii.

Too Much, Too Soon?

“I don’t think this is a game changer,” Joshua Martin, a Yankee Group analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

The industry, he said, has not yet reached capacity points on Blu-ray discs that would necessitate an expansion, at least not in the consumer space.

“It may be a different story in the business world, in the enterprise space,” he noted.

However, when it comes to putting movies on a disc, “there is still an inherent value in having a multidisc set. Until that perception of value goes away, having one disc could be a bit of a detriment for a manufacturer,” Martin said.

For example, if a movie studio was able to provide enough content to fill up a disc that size, what if the consumer lost or damaged the disc? “Then the consumer would have lost an entire television series or season of a show,” he pointed out.

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