Pioneer to demo optical discs with 400 GB capacities

The Japanese electronics company says it has successfully developed a optical disc which includes 16 layers of data.

Each layer would be capable of containing 25 gigabytes, meaning the disc could hold 400 gigabytes of data in total. Such high capacities would prove beneficial to those content providers that offer multi-volume titles presently.

About 48 hours of high-definition content would be able to be held on these discs, using the six-hour guideline that is currently touted for 50 GB BD discs. For example, an entire season of a television program or mini-series could fit on a single disc. There is an environmental benefit too: Less disc production means conservation of resources, the company says.

Multi-layer discs are nothing new. Most notably, Warner developed a optical disc back in 2005 and 2006 that was capable of three layers. At the time -- the height of the next-generation disc wars -- it was seen as a way of combining both HD DVD and Blu-ray into a single disc, or combining one of the formats with standard DVD.

TDK also had been working on a six-layer disc in 2006 capable of holding 150 gigabytes of data, and several other manufacturers have demoed prototypes of their own entrants. Either way, the current ceiling commercially so far has been limited to a dual-layer 50 GB BD disc, which would hold 100 gigabytes.

With any of these previous prototypes, there was always a unifying issue among them all: crosstalk and signal loss. Simply put, data from adjacent layers would also reflect the laser from the disc reader, causing degradation in the signal quality.

Pioneer said that it had restructured the disc to minimize this issue, and also included a "wide-range spherical aberration compensator" to further tune out the unwanted crosstalk signals.

Best of all, the company says that since the disc is fully compatible with the specifications of Blu-ray discs, meaning that in theory it should play without issue on current players.

The company says it would show off its prototype at an optical disc conference in Hawaii starting next week.

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