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Advances in storage media through the years have taken surprising turns, but there are even more radical ideas being researched right now. Though this series of articles has been concerned with many different aspects of the DVD, we have come a long way in our investigations, with the most previous article looking ahead to the future beyond DVDs at still-exotic technologies like the HVD, or Holographic Versatile Disc, with its demonstrated five terabytes of possible data capacity. However, even this amazing development is not all that’s been cooking in laboratories the world over as engineers scramble to invent the successor format to DVDs altogether. Blue-Ray Disc, move over!

With research teams like the ones at InPhase Technologies and Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, HVD is not the only possible option for our high-capacity optical media future. InPhase Technologies is working on a rival holographic format christened Tapestry Media that is expected to eventually store 1.6 TB at a data transfer rate of 120 MB per second. Indeed, several other companies exist that are experimenting with terabyte-level discs involving three-dimensional optical data storage technology. Such large data capacities compare quite favorably with the still somewhat nascent Blue-Ray Disc format as storage media. However, it is precisely Blue-Ray’s still unexplored potentialities that should make it a tough one to replace, and with holographic drives projected to initially cost somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen thousand American dollars – and a single disc costing a hundred-and-twenty to a hundred-and-eighty – holographic technology seems destined for the far future indeed. (Companies like Sony, TDK, and Maxell have releases planned for sometime in the middle of this present decade, however.) Of course, the average consumer is not expected to rank among the early adopters, which will be commercial enterprises with real mass storage needs.

The research team of scientists from Swinburne University of Technology are working on 5D DVDs, or Five-Dimensional Digital Versatile Discs, so named because of the multiple data layers and, like HVDs, will involve multiple lasers. Given that its system utilizes extremely tiny particles for the inscription of data, it is believed that a disc of ten terabytes can be achieved, about twice that of an HVD and over two thousand times that of today’s standard DVDs. As the encoding system is very similar to current technology, however, it is hoped that 5D DVDs can also be easily rendered backwards-compatible. The developers from Swinburne University of Technology, Peter Zijlstra, James Chon, and Min Gu, expect their 5D DVD technology to be commercially viable in five to ten years’ time. Finally, there are even those working on storage media based on protein-coated discs!