General Electric has revealed that it’s created a 500GB optical disk. That’s 10 times the capacity of a Blu-ray disc, and enough room for the content from almost 60 movie DVDs.
Right now, the technology is simply at the stage where it can be proven to work in a lab setting. It’s likely to be at least two to three years before it can be refined to be produced at a commercially viable price.
Whereas Blu-ray is simply a more efficient use of the same technique used in DVDs (a series of dimples in the disk surface read by a laser), the General Electric system uses holograms, effectively turning the data storage area into three dimensions. The firm says it has found a way to make smaller holograms almost 200 times more reflective, thus increasing the number which can fit on a usable disc.
The big problem with such a huge disk is that it appears to be a case of producing something just because you can, rather than because there is any need.
At the moment there only seem three possible mass-market uses for a disk with such a large capacity, all with notable drawbacks:
Firms could use them to produce movie disks with massively increased resolutions and sound quality. The problem there is that these improvements would likely be far past the point where much appreciable benefit could be noticed on existing audio-visual equipment.
They could be used for selling movie disks with much more content on. While this could have some uses – such as putting a full season of an HD television series on a single disk – most customers aren’t likely to pay the price studios would want to charge for so much content in a single purchase.
They could also be used as a home recording system, allowing users to store hundreds of hours of video, or even thousands upon thousands of music files. That might be a useful space saver for people with large collections, but anyone who’s ever had a CD get scratched or a recordable DVD fail will likely be very wary of having the potential to lose so much content in a single swoop.
Instead GE will initially concentrate on specialist uses such as hospitals which need to store extremely detailed brain scan data, or movie studios which want to minimize archive space.